During a special meeting Tuesday evening, the city council approved $145,000 to settle a lawsuit involving a city police officer, who while off-duty mistakenly assaulted two men he believed had attacked his son in the Borough of Hawthorne.
Frank Semmel, the city police officer, assaulted Daion Morgan, a city resident, who was employed at the Rehabilitation Specialists, a rehabilitation facility for brain injury patients, in Hawthorne, on November 14, 2010 at around 6:30 p.m.
Earlier in the day Semmel’s son was assaulted by two men: one black and one white. Semmel, a detective at the city’s police department, managed to obtain a description of the two individuals, located two men who matched that description, and a violent confrontation followed.
Morgan, an African-American, was walking a white patient on Grand Avenue in the borough, when the detective approached him.
Semmel commanded, “I am a police officer, get on the ground.” Morgan complied. Once on the ground, the detective viciously punched Morgan in the face and head yelling, “What did you do [to] my son?”
The severe beating resulted in Morgan losing consciousness. Morgan was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he received treatment for a fractured nose and bruising and swelling to the face, according to a subsequent indictment brought against the detective by the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
Semmel misidentified the two men. Later, the borough’s police department captured two juveniles who were responsible for assaulting his son.
Authorities investigated the incident after Morgan filed a complaint with the borough’s police department and the city’s Internal Affairs Unit alleging the officer used excessive force. Following the indictment on March 7, 2011 the city had suspended the officer, but after a month reinstated the detective.
On April 1st, 2014, according to city officials, Semmel resigned. The city’s payroll record shows the detective was hired by the city on May 14th, 2001.
The city will payout the $145,000 in two installments of $72,500, according to the resolution approving the settlement.
Council members held closed door discussions with William Fraher, the city’s police chief, and Glenn Brown, the city’s police safety director, about the settlement. Afterwards, council members voted to approve the settlement.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, only council member to make a remark, said the city ought to go after Semmel to recover some of the costs incurred by city taxpayers. Morris suggested the city do research to figure out if it can recover some of the money being paid out in the settlement.
“In instances like this that the city does investigate and research the possibility of going after the officer, in this instance, in an effort to recoup some of the money that is being paid out by taxpayers,” said Morris.