By Brett Gillin
Pennsylvania State Trooper David Williams claims he was only trying to deescalate and calm a rowdy groomsman following a fight after his brother’s wedding. Unfortunately, when police arrived at the scene, Williams claims that the officers not only made the situation worse, they attacked him for no reason and falsely arrested him. Now, Williams has filed a lawsuit against four unnamed police officers and then-Police Chief Nate Harper, claiming the chief knew there was a pattern of civil rights violations and abuse by his officers but did nothing to stop it.
According to this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the ordeal started on a party boat reception following the wedding of Mark Williams, David Williams’ brother. A waitress aboard the Gateway Clipper, where the wedding reception was being held, told authorities that she felt uncomfortable by the way Mark Williams was treating her. She claimed that the groom was touching her inappropriately and trying to force the 19-year-old server to take shots of liquor.
“The groom was so drunk. He came over and started rubbing my head and put his hand on my body, just touchy-feely,” the waitress told reporters in a September 2014 interview with WTAE.com. The waitress called her boyfriend and asked him to meet her at the dock to pick her up. When he arrived, a fight broke out between Mark Williams and the boyfriend according to reports.
After a witness called police and they arrived at the scene, the melee continued until Mark Williams was arrested. During the scuffle, David Williams allegedly explained that he was a police officer and was trying to calm the situation, but the responding officers told a different story.
According to WTAE, the responding officer claim that David Williams would not listen to the police, who had ordered him to stay back. They also claim that David struck one of their officers. But surveillance video of the scene seems to tell a very different story.
As you can see in the video, obtained by the Post-Gazette, Williams seems to be calmly talking outside of any sort of physical altercations when a police officer shoves him. Rather than retaliate, Williams steps back and is confronted by several other officers. Moments later, the officers wrestle Williams to the ground. Once Williams is on the ground, the video shows an officer kicking Williams.
“He’s explaining that he’s a police officer and he’s not intending to interfere with what’s going on,” Tim O’Brien, the attorney for David Williams, told reporters. “They grab him, they throw him to the ground violently, punch him in the head and then kick him in the groin.”
After the events depicted in the video, Williams was charged with riot, assault and resisting arrest. All of those charges were dropped once the video surfaced, and his brother also escaped charges when the server for the Gateway Clipper decided that she did not want to press charges.
“If it can happen to Mr. Williams – a police officer, a state trooper – then who amongst us is not in danger of having it happen to them?” O’Brien asked reporters with ABC News. Williams is seeking unspecified monetary damages in the lawsuit. The Pittsburgh Police Department has launched an internal preliminary review to assess whether the involved officers will remain on duty during the investigation.