Williamsport, Pa. – A Williamsport woman claims she and her sons were subjected to "cruel and sadistic" treatment by the Williamsport Police and seeks $2 million in compensatory damages.
Lycoming County detective Tyson Havens and Williamsport Police Officers John/Jane Doe #1-20 are defendants in a civil lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Plaintiff Libby Williams alleges that Havens and the other officers assaulted her and her sons, Rocellus Carter, 20, and C.W., 10, during an illegal raid of their home in the 2800 block of Linn Street, Williamsport.
In a Jan. 5 complaint, Williams' attorney Stephen T. O'Hanlon said the officers "threatened a ten-year-old boy with death" by throwing flash-bang grenades that left large holes in the interior walls on Sept. 29.
No criminal charges were filed against Williams or her sons as a result of the raid, according to Lycoming County Court records.
O'Hanlon claims officers acted with "racial animus" while unlawfully arresting Williams and her sons. He said police ransacked and destroyed their home to the point of rendering it uninhabitable.
The police officers tore apart furniture, broke beds into pieces, ripped a thermostat off the wall and pried open a circuit breaker, O'Hanlon said. Family photos were torn off the walls and the oven and televisions were broken. Foodstuffs were left open by the officers, who dumped the contents of cabinets into shower stalls, according to the complaint.
The little boy now lives in complete fear of the police, indelibly scarred and extremely anxious, O'Hanlon said.
The sequence of events began around 5:30 a.m. on Sept. 29 when Williams said she heard a commotion outside her home. Suddenly, men in military uniforms kicked open her door and threw flash-bang grenades inside. She said they stormed her house with their guns drawn and aimed at her.
Williams said her 10-year-old son C.W. came out of his bedroom "in a complete daze" as the home was blanketed in thick smoke. The boy became disoriented and began walking towards officers as they yelled at him to walk away.
The officers made Williams and the others walk backwards out of the house, handcuffed them, and sat them down on the grass barefoot and shivering in the cold rain, according to the complaint.
Williams asked to see a search warrant but the officers told her it was sealed and that they didn't need to show it to her.
The complaint states that Carter asked the officers why they were doing this and one of them thrust his loaded gun up against Carter's head and screamed, "Shut up right now!'"
Williams and C.W. were taken in a police car to Williamsport City Hall, where Williams told Havens that she didn't know why she was being interrogated.
Havens said, "You have been selling drugs for years! Come on. I have been watching you," according to the complaint.
"Plaintiff Williams is not a drug dealer and Defendant Officer Havens gave no reason or basis for believing that she is one," O'Hanlon wrote.
Williams said Havens pulled up a video from her Facebook page that she asserts shows she hated police officers.
"Plaintiff Williams responded that her feelings toward police officers have no bearing on whether she was a drug dealer," O'Hanlon said.
While Williams was handcuffed to a bench at the station, officers showed her a picture of her gun on her living room couch, the complaint states. Williams told them the gun was hers and that she had a permit for it.
"The Defendant Officers then showed her a picture of a kid with a gun that was a completely different kind of gun and asked if it was the same gun," O'Hanlon said. Williams replied that it wasn't.
Distraught by the questioning and extremely worried about her son, Williams agreed to give DNA samples, according to the complaint.
"Defendant Officers told her that she would be released if she provided a DNA sample," O'Hanlon said.
After four or five hours of unlawfully detaining her, the officers took off her painfully-tight handcuffs and "kicked her out of the station" while she was still shoeless, according to O'Hanlon.
"While Plaintiff Williams was leaving the police station, she crossed paths with the Mayor. When she told the Mayor about what happened, he told her to file a complaint with the District Attorney's Office," O'Hanlon said.
But Williamsport Police officers barred Williams when she attempted to file the complaint, according to O'Hanlon.
"The Defendants' actions had no basis in law and were beyond the bounds of reasonable police work and the Defendants are, therefore, entitled to no immunity," O'Hanlon said.
O'Hanlon argues that exemplary monetary damages should be awarded due to the willful and malicious conduct of the Williamsport Police – and as a deterrent to Officer Tyson Havens and others like him "from further wrongdoing."