Trooper files $5 million lawsuit against Cheektowaga for alleged wrongful arrest

Chronicle file photo of a Cheektowaga Police car.
Chronicle file photo of a Cheektowaga Police car.

CHEEKTOWAGA – A New York State Trooper has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit in federal court seeking damages from the Town of Cheektowaga after she says her civil rights were violated by the Cheektowaga Police after they responded to her home for a domestic disturbance.

Dominique Wilson, a resident of Cheektowaga, is seeking over $5.1 million for false arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery, defamation of character, humiliation, malicious prosecution and the violation of her 4th and 5th amendment rights.

The arrest stemmed from a domestic disturbance at her Harlem Road home on November 9, 2015.  A neighbor from across the street called Cheektowaga Police after he witnessed Ms. Wilson and her then-fiancé arguing on the front lawn.  He reported seeing Ms. Wilson waving a pistol during the fight.

Court documents show that Officer Timothy Turnbull responded to the call and after an investigation charged Ms. Wilson with reckless endangerment and menacing – both misdemeanors.  She was arraigned in town court and released on her own recognizance.

Attorney Gregory D. Abram represents Ms. Wilson and tells Cheektowaga Chronicle that Judge Paul Piotrowski later granted his motion to have the case dismissed because there was never a victim in the case.

“You arrested someone when you never had a victim.  You arrested someone and you’re telling her that her husband is the complainant and her husband is saying I never made a complaint to you,” said Mr. Abram.  “How do you justify that and continue with the prosecution?”

He isn’t dismissing that fact that an argument happened that day, but says the entire case was based on what an eyewitness saw.

“You had a so-called statement from a neighbor who lives across the street who said he was upstairs in his bedroom looking out the window across the four-lane highway and made a statement of what he thought he saw,” he said.  “If the neighbor saw it and he said someone was menaced – well who was menaced?  Was it the neighbor?  Who’s the victim? They couldn’t identify who the victim was; it’s a real funky type situation.”

Ms. Wilson, a New York State Trooper, was put on unpaid leave while the case was being prosecuted.

“When an officer gets accused of something they’re immediately put off the job without pay for at least a month or two or three as things progress,” added Mr. Abram.  “The woman accrued legal fees, time away from work, aggravation, and discord between her husband, all for nothing.”

He says Ms. Wilson tried to settle with the town before filing the lawsuit in federal court.

“According to the lawyers with the Town of Cheektowaga, they said the town would not settle, so if they don’t settle, then it has to go the way it has to go.”

Mr. Abram says that they will show a federal jury that the Cheektowaga Police had no right to arrest Ms. Wilson because Officer Timothy Turnbull’s initial observation of the incident didn’t warrant the arrest.

“He was just following orders,” Mr. Abram said.  “I think the record shows that Officer Turnbull pretty much recognized that there was no basis for an arrest and he only did the arrest because he informed his lieutenant that there was no basis for an arrest and his lieutenant told him to make the arrest.”

A request seeking comment from the town was not returned late Tuesday afternoon.

Ms. Wilson is seeking $5 million for her alleged civil rights violations, plus $30,000 in lost wages, and $100,000 in punitive damages.

“If you had probable cause, the case wouldn’t have been dismissed.  The judge said there was no basis for arrest in the first place.  I don’t see what the issue is here.  I think this whole thing could have been resolved even before she filed the complaint, but for whatever reason, they took the position of saying, no we’re not going to settle anything.  I don’t get it; I just don’t get it,” Mr. Abram said.  “All things considered, I think Officer Turnbull was exactly on point, on the money. He arrived at the scene, he had a complaint, he did an investigation, he said there’s nothing here, there’s no complainant, end of story.”

Mr. Turnbull was appointed to the rank of detective in April 2017.  Chief of Police David Zack said at the time that the officer did not have a single citizen complaint or complaint from an arrestee in his entire career.

A separate federal complaint was filed against the town on behalf of Ms. Wilson’s husband, Micaiah Abram after the police department removed his firearms from the house without an order of protection or court order.  Mr. Abram tells Cheektowaga Chronicle the weapons have not been returned to the New York State Corrections Officer because Cheektowaga Police is citing departmental policy.

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