A man who was hospitalized after being shot with a Taser in March by a New Haven police officer is suing the officer for monetary and punitive damages.
Rodney Williams Jr. was apprehended March 8 after reportedly driving a motocross bike erratically and performing tricks with a group of other riders on motorized dirt bikes and quads. During Officer Michael Haines’ pursuit of Williams, who acknowledged he had disobeyed traffic signals, Williams reportedly dropped his motorcycle and began running away from the officer. While on foot pursuit, Haines deployed the stun gun to stop Williams.
An Internal Affairs investigation conducted by the New Haven Police Department was released in May, and noted that a case of a fleeing suspect alone does not constitute justification for use of a stun gun, and that an immediate threat to the officer or the public must be present to justify deployment. The report concluded that an excessive-force complaint filed by Williams was valid.
In a civil suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in New Haven, Williams claims the shock from the stun gun caused him to “fall to the ground, inflicting painful injuries,” including “bruises, contusions, lacerations, a concussion and other closed-head injuries.” The lawsuit adds Williams ”has suffered emotional distress, incurred medical expenses and temporary and permanent injuries, all to his personal and financial detriment.”
Williams also claims Haines violated his civil rights “to be free from unreasonable force, which rights are secured to the plaintiff by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution as enforced through Sections 1983 and 1988 of Title 42 of the United States Code.”
The plaintiff’s attorney, John Radshaw III, said he is “confident a jury will reach the same conclusion as Internal Affairs, and that is that Michael Haines used excessive force against Rodney Williams.”
The Internal Affairs report noted several off-road vehicles were witnessed on State Street when Williams dropped his motorcycle in the road and began running from Haines. Williams was struck in the head and back with the prongs of the stun gun. He was treated at Yale-New Haven Hospital for a laceration to his chin that required stitches and bruising and swelling above his left eye.
In an interview with investigators, Haines said he had been able to get within 5 to 10 feet of Williams, but had been unable to grab him. “As Officer Haines exited his vehicle, Williams came back, picked up the dirt bike and tried to run with it,” the report states. “Officer Haines stated he had been within 10 feet of Williams but could not explain why he was unable to grab him. Officer Haines ran after him and ordered him to stop multiple times, but Williams did not comply.”
Haines was “now approximately five to 10 feet from Williams but still could not grab him. Officer Haines drew and deployed his taser striking Williams.”
The report also states that Haines acknowledged “Williams had not displayed any threatening behavior toward him once off the dirt bike and did not present a danger to the public,” which is an essential component for justifying use of a stun gun.
Haines was also found to be in violation of General Order 7.06, which outlines standard procedures following the use of a stun gun. This includes downloading information from the weapon onto a computer as soon as possible to determine the exact time the weapon was fired, how many times it was fired and the duration of each hit. Haines reportedly did not download the required data until more than a month after the incident. Haines also did not file a timely “use of force notification form,” the report stated.
Internal Affairs also cited Haines’ supervisor, Sgt. Jason Rentkowicz, for being in violation of the same order, for not ensuring the necessary reports had been completed by Haines.
As of Wednesday, Haines had not identified an attorney to represent him in the matter. Neither he or interim Police Chief Anthony Campbell responded to a request for comment.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall.