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Lawsuit Alleges New Haven Police Violated Wallingford Man's Civil Rights
Complaint Names City Of New Haven And Former Police Chief Among Defendants

The Hartford Courant
6:25 PM EDT, September 18, 2013

NEW HAVEN — A man who was arrested in 2010 for filming police officers on Crown Street with his iPhone has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of New Haven, as well as the former police chief and several officers.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New Haven, alleges that not only was Luis Luna was falsely arrested, but his First and 14th Amendment rights were violated by the officers and the city should be held liable for their actions.

According to the complaint, Luna is seeking action against the city, former police Chief Frank Limon, former Assistant Chief Ariel Melendez, and Kristin Fitzgerald and Curtis Miller, who at the time of the arrest were employed as officers in the New Haven Police Department.

On Sept. 25, 2010, Luna, a Wallingford resident, was riding his bike on Crown Street, filming and taking photographs of the night life on his iPhone, when he saw a crowd and police officers struggling with three people, the complaint states. Luna stopped and began to videotape the incident from 20 to 30 feet away, according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that Melendez then approached Luna and asked what he was doing. When Luna responded that he was filming, Melendez told him he was not allowed to film, grabbed the iPhone out of Luna's hand and directed Fitzgerald to arrest Luna for interfering with an officer, the complaint states.

While Luna was being processed at the police department, Melendez handed Luna's phone to Miller and told him to delete the video Luna had taken, according to the complaint.

Luna reluctantly agreed to plead guilty to creating a public disturbance, but moved to vacate the plea in March 2011, after New Haven police Internal Affairs investigation found that Melendez had engaged in "conduct unbecoming an officer" in Luna's arrest, the complaint states.

Melendez resigned in January 2011, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit alleges that the city of New Haven and Limon, who was chief at the time, "failed to provide supervision and training to police officers with respect to the right of citizens to film, photograph or otherwise record the conduct of police in public places and to retain any recordings made."

"The City will review the lawsuit and respond accordingly at the appropriate time," said city Corporation Counsel Victor A. Bolden.

Luna is seeking a declaratory judgment against the defendants, as well as compensatory and punitive damages, according to the complaint.
"This police conduct in this case is a clear violation of not only Mr. Luna's First Amendment right to take photographs of the actions of the police, but it is also a threat to the rights of journalists and photojournalists everywhere in this country to practice their profession without fear of arrest," said Diane Polan, one of Luna's attorneys.

Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant




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