PITTSBURGH – A Western Pennsylvania man has sued a police department for allegedly failing to prevent one of its former officers from using a stun gun on him while he was handcuffed.
The federal civil lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of Gary Cahill, 36, of Harwick, seeks unspecified damages for an encounter Dec. 17, 2011, involving Springdale officer Mark Thom.
Thom pleaded guilty in March to a criminal charge of violating Cahill’s civil rights by punching and stunning Cahill after he was handcuffed and not resisting. Thom is free on bond, awaiting sentencing before a federal judge in Pittsburgh Oct. 22. He has since resigned.
Cahill’s lawsuit doesn’t target Thom, but rather the Springdale police department, its since-retired chief and another officer who was allegedly present but didn’t intervene. The six-page lawsuit contends the department knew Thom had “violent propensities” based on other allegations, including an incident lawsuit in 2011 that resulted in a $98,500 settlement paid to another person who claimed they were wrongly assaulted by Thom.
Cahill’s attorney, Timothy O’Brien, said the lawsuit “posits that our constitutional rights are equally imperiled, not only by the police officer who intentionally violates those rights, but by the municipality and responsible officials who tolerate such abuse.”
Springdale mayor Eileen Miller said she hasn’t seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it.
In it, Cahill contends he was handcuffed and sitting in the back of Thom’s cruiser when the officer punched Cahill then repeatedly shocked him with a stun gun. Cahill was arrested during a traffic stop during which he was threatened with an AR-15 rifle by Thom as well, the lawsuit said.
Cahill was charged with driving under the influence, resisting arrest and other charges, which he contends were false and which the lawsuit said were all dismissed. Court records confirm that.
The lawsuit argues former Chief Joseph Naviglia and the borough “were on notice of Thom’s violent propensities, his improper and excessive use of forces, including the unnecessary Tasering of citizens, and were also on notice that Thom carried out false arrests and/or filed false and unfounded criminal charges against citizens.”