A Paterson Museum employee claims to have been the target of racism at the hands of police officers which escalated into a vicious attack at the Frank X. Graves Public Safety Complex and false charges being filed against him.
Mohamed Khalil, who has been working as a museum assistant for a decade, is seeking $10 million in damages, according to his court complaint. His lawsuit in federal court filed last Wednesday names the city, former police chief William Fraher, police officer Elizabeth Straub, sergeant Joseph Delgado, and other unnamed officers.
Khalil’s interaction with police began on Mar. 6, 2016 at 1:30 a.m. He went to the police station to file a report. At the desk, he was told “due to the situation in the city” he should return at 4:30 a.m. He called, spoke to a woman officer, believed to be Straub, who was “very rude” over the phone, before returning to the station, according to the complaint.
Straub “aggressively” greeted him calling him an “Arab Muslim” who treated “women badly.” His lawsuit says Khalil was shocked and asked where was the officer was “coming from.” She told him she made the remark based on his name.
Khalil was made to wait. He approached a second officer walking upstairs. She told him if anyone is giving him a hard time he should ask for a supervisor. He returned to Straub to file his police report.
Straub told him it will take three hours to file the complaint. He told her if he can leave and come back later.
“No, if you leave, I’m not doing it. I’ll stop. You have to have a seat.”
The lawsuit does not state the nature of Khalil’s complaint. He alleges Straub accused him of lying to file the report.
Khalil sat down to pass three hours. He opened his phone to check email, messages, and Facebook. As he waited, he witnessed another officer, identified as “Officer No. 1,” was intimately playing with Straub’s ear and neck.
Khalil tried to look away but caught the attention of the male officer. Both officers thought Khalil was recording their interaction using a cellphone.
Straub allegedly raised her voice and accused Khalil of lying. Khalil told her he was not lying and knows the consequences of lying to police officers. After three hours, Straub told him she would not file the report unless he removed parts of it. When asked why, she told him, “Okay, you have to leave, mother f—-r.”
Khalil told her she did not have to “use that language” and told her he was a city employee like her. He then asked to speak to a supervisor.
Delgado came out from the back shouting the same profanities as Straub. He also threatened Khalil with physical violence while pushing him out of the door, according to the complaint.
“I’m leaving,” Khalil told the officers while putting his arms in the air. He again told them he was a city employee who worked with the mayor and police director.
Delgado allegedly said, “Go f— your Joey Torres; go f— your Speziale. Go tell them to f—ing pay me my f—ing overtime.” He continued to push Khalil out of the lobby, according to the lawsuit.
“He was recording us”
As Khalil walked to his car, “Officer No. 1″ shouted, “No, don’t let him go, he was recording us.”
This officer came running and kicking. He snatched Khalil’s phone from his hand. He allegedly formatted the phone and broke it to ensure nothing was recorded, says the lawsuit.
Straub also came out and told Khalil he was under arrest. He asked why, Straub told him for “trespassing.”
Khalil questioned the arrest stating he was outside the station and it is a public complex.
“You, mother f—er, I’ll make you a criminal. I’ll give you charges so even if the judge wants to downgrade, you’ll still be a criminal. You said you work with us in the city? I’ll make you lose your job because you will be a criminal,” Straub allegedly told him.
Delgado and six officers came outside and were “hitting and punching” Khalil in the “chest, kidneys, and legs,” says the lawsuit.
Delgado allegedly began hitting Khalil’s body against the concrete. He banged his head on the concrete, walls, glass door, and elevator.
Khalil was pushed against every wall and metal bar. He was dragged from outside of the station to upstairs, says the lawsuit.
Delgado allegedly struck him while making disparaging remarks about Khalil’s ethnicity.
“If the Israeli police arrested you, you would not open your mouth; they would shoot and kill you. You are lucky here.”
Khalil immigrated from Alexandria, Egypt.
“I’ll make sure you lose your job and your citizenship,” Straub allegedly threatened. “I’ll make sure you spend all weekend here.”
Khalil begged to be released. He had to open the Paterson Museum in the morning.
Straub allegedly hid his paperwork so that Khalil would miss the judge’s morning call and not be released on bail in time to open the museum for Lou Costello’s 110th birthday event.
“Lucky cell number 23”
Delgado told Khalil he would be placed in “lucky cell number 23.” Cell 23 was an unsanitary holding spot that had traces of snot and spit with a broken phone.
The officers took his clothing and left him to sleep on the bare metal bed, says the lawsuit. While he was being fingerprinted, Khalil asked when he would be let out. He was told his name and paperwork could not be located. The paperwork was later found at the front desk.
Khalil was released 17.5 hours after he came in to file a report. He went directly to mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ house to show his “beaten and bruised physical condition.”
Torres told him to go to the police chief and police director Jerry Speziale to file an internal affairs report.
Speziale on Monday said he could not comment on a lawsuit.
Khalil went to St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center for an examination.
Khalil went to Speziale “who reacted in shock at what had happened.” His injuries were photographed and he filed a report with internal affairs.
Straub’s charges of disorderly conduct, trespassing, obstructing administration of law, and resisting arrest against Khalil were dismissed by judge Kevin McDuffie on Jun. 1, 2016, according to the lawsuit.
Khalil’s attorney subpoenaed video camera footage from police. The city told him the cameras were inoperable at the time. However, there were some footage from inside the station.
When asked if cameras are still inoperable at the police station, Speziale said they are now functional.
Khalil’s attorney Kenneth Rosellini said he does not know the outcome of the internal affairs investigation.
“We don’t have any idea if there were any discipline or if the investigation was completed,” said Rosellini.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Guidelines require police to notify the complainant of their internal affairs investigation outcome.
Straub has been with the police force for 14 years. Delgado has been working for the city for 23 years.
Both remain on city payroll.
“There wasn’t anything done,” said Rosellini. His lawsuit says Khalil continues to suffer from physical and psychological effects of the injuries sustained two years ago.