"Good Samaritans" Sued Over Man’s Death

Men who helped cop try to arrest a man who died in the struggle named in lawsuit

By Teresa Masterson
|  Friday, Feb 11, 2011  |  Updated 9:11 AM EDT
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"Good Samaritans" Sued Over Man’s Death

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Keith Briscoe was smoking a cigarette and drinking a soda outside of a South Jersey Wawa before his daily stops one morning last May. Moments later, he was dead. His family blames five police officers and three “good Samaritans.”

Briscoe was standing outside the Wawa on the 100 block of Cross Keys Road May 3, 2010 when a Winslow Township police officer tried to arrest him for loitering. A violent struggle began, and “good Samaritans” tried to help the officer, and Briscoe died from asphyxia in a tangle of bodies after being maced several times, according to a press release from the Camden County prosecutor’s office.

Now Briscoe’s family has filed a $25 million civil lawsuit against the arresting officer, Sean Richards, who has since resigned from the police force, four current Winslow Township police officers who arrived at the Wawa to help Richards in the arrest, and three civilians who ran to assist Richards, reports the Daily News.

Briscoe was a non-violent schizophrenic who stopped at that particular Wawa every day before going to Steininger Behavior Care Services, according to the Daily News. Richards pleaded guilty in October to simple assault and agreed to give up his position as an officer and never hold a job in public safety again, according to Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk.

Briscoe did nothing to warrant an arrest and “when Richards attempted to cuff Briscoe, he committed an illegal arrest,” according to Faulk’s statement in October.

One of the “good Samaritans” named in the lawsuit, Daniel Damato of Maple Shade, told the Daily News why he helped the officer:

"He dropped his handcuffs and I thought the guy might have tried to grab his gun," Damato said.

Attorney for Briscoe family, Stanley King, told the Daily News that all eight men named in the suit contributed to the 36-year-old man’s death.

"All of these people who came to his aid had it wrong," King said. "It cost this man his life. I feel bad for the pedestrians as well, because it's a delicate situation, but it is what it is."

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