Elizabeth cops sued after charges dropped against man they beat
ELIZABETH — A resident has filed a federal lawsuit against the city alleging his constitutional rights were violated during what he says was an unlawful arrest and police beating two years ago.
Officer Edward Shields is also named as a defendant in the suit, along with unnamed officers and city employees.
Raul Tornes was taken into custody on Sept. 29, 2017, after a disagreement with his girlfriend, according to his attorney, Joshua McMahon.
During Tornes' time at police headquarters, an edited video provided by McMahon appears to show police officers choking and punching Tornes while he's handcuffed and also pushing him into lockers. The video shows several officers standing by as the struggle ensues.
According to a federal complaint filed last week, Tornes was punched in the face and kneed in the skull while still in handcuffs after which, the complaint says, Shields called Tornes a gay slur.
The assaults and homophobic epithets were video and audio recorded, according to the federal complaint.
When McMahon provided an edited and annotated video of Tornes and officers in August 2018, he said the body camera footage from one female officer had not yet been released. The edited footage can be seen below:
The Union County Prosecutor's Office declined to provide a full and unedited copy of the police video to New Jersey 101.5 at that time.
The federal complaint alleges false police reports were filed to cover up the treatment of Tornes, including false criminal offenses against him.
Less than a month after the encounter, by Nov. 13, 2017, all charges against Tornes were dismissed by the Union County Prosecutor's Office.
Shields was charged with one count of simple assault in August 2018 by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, a charge that remains pending in New Providence Municipal Court, according to the complaint.
"The Elizabeth Police Officers involved in this matter have betrayed their oath to protect and serve, beginning with an illegal stop, arrest and the filing of baseless charges against my client, which were subsequently dismissed by the State; but, the truly egregious conduct by Officer Shields — repeatedly punching and kneeing an innocent, handcuffed man and then calling him a ‘f**kin' fa***t’ while the other Officers stood by and did nothing — is indefensible and has no place in our criminal justice system," McMahon said in a written statement to New Jersey 101.5.
McMahon also said he fully expects Union County Acting Prosecutor Lyndsay Ruotolo to follow through with criminal prosecution of Shields, "so other officers clearly understand that you cannot violently beat handcuffed arrestees and call them 'f**kin' f****ts without repercussions."
A request for comment from Elizabeth's spokesman was not returned by Wednesday.
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