Date of Verdict:

July 12.

Court and Case No.:

U.S.D.C.M.D.Pa. 1:12-cv-01291-SHR.


Sylvia H. Rambo.

Type of Action:

Civil rights.


Back and head injuries; emotional distress.

Plaintiffs Counsel:

Michael C. Schwartz and Jonathan J. James, James, Schwartz & Associates, Philadelphia.

Defense Counsel:

Frank J. Lavery Jr. and Gary H. Dadamo, Lavery Faherty Patterson, Harrisburg.


Plaintiff Deanna Blake, 44, owns a corner store located at 1501 Herr St. in Harrisburg. According to Blake, on July 11, 2010, her sons — plaintiffs Khalif Williams, 16; Naim Williams, 17; Rashid Gilmore, 22; and Shariff Blake, 20 — were outside the family store when officers from the Harrisburg Police Department arrived, allegedly responding to a report of a juvenile with a gun several blocks away.

In her complaint, Blake alleged that Officer Todd Chance approached Khalif Williams and did not say a word before he handcuffed him. At the same time, one of the officers approached Naim Williams at the side, nonpublic entrance and tried to enter the store. When Naim Williams refused him entry, the officer reportedly placed him in a headlock and then handcuffed him. Gilmore and Shariff Blake were subsequently placed in handcuffs as well.

According to court papers, Chance and Officer Eric Carter both discharged their Taser guns, striking Khalif Williams, who was still handcuffed. The shot from the Taser caused Khalif Williams to fall backward and strike his head on the pavement. Blake claimed Khalif Williams was picked up and placed in a police vehicle, after which some or all of the officers entered the store, without a warrant and without permission or consent, and conducted an unlawful search. According to Blake, some of the officers removed video surveillance equipment and a computer and placed them in police custody. Other officers who allegedly took place in the search included Thomas McGarrity, Hudson Hughes and Luis Rodriguez.

Naim Williams, Gilmore and Shariff Blake were released without being charged, but Khalif Williams was taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest. He was detained in the juvenile detention center for three days and then placed on a 9 p.m. curfew. On June 4, 2012, following an adjudicatory hearing, Khalif Williams was found not guilty of all charges.

Deanna Blake and her children sued the officers and the city of Harrisburg for violations of their constitutional rights and claims of assault and battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

The defense argued that the arrest was legal and Khalif Williams needed to be shocked with a Taser because he assaulted the police officers.

Khalif Williams' counsel maintained that the defense's claim that Khalif Williams assaulted the officers was false, as the Taser incident was all on video surveillance and did not show him assaulting any officer.

Khalif Williams claimed that in addition to being Tasered, he suffered soft-tissue injuries throughout his body, which were accompanied by bruising to his head, chest and back. No medical treatment was administered.

Deanna Blake and her sons sought to recover unspecified amounts in non-economic damages pursuant to their claims.

Blake claimed that her store's video surveillance equipment was returned by the police more than a year later. She sought to recover approximately $1,000 for the equipment.

The plaintiffs also sought $5,150 in attorney fees.

The parties settled for $90,000 prior to any depositions taking place.

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.

— This report first appeared in VerdictSearch Pennsylvania, a publication of ALM •