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Man arrested on viral video suing York City, officers, former chief
A Springettsbury Township man who was arrested during an altercation recorded on video nearly two years ago is suing York City, four officers and the former police chief.
Mathew D. Bair filed a federal lawsuit on May 3 against York City Police officers Daniel Craven, Matthew Irvin and Alex Sable, former York City Police Chief Wes Kahley and York City.
He is also suing an "Officer Smith," whose first name is not mentioned. Bair's attorney, Tom Kelley, said they are still trying to figure out his first name.
Sable, who was with York City Police for four years, died Wednesday, May 9, after suffering a heart attack during a training exercise in Baltimore County, according to York City officials.
Kelley said their biggest issue with what happened is the 90 days Bair spent in York County Prison from the charges, which were eventually dropped.
“He lost everything, he lost his apartment, he lost all the furnishings for his apartment, he lost his job,” Kelley said.
Bair was arrested after he was found yelling from the second floor of the parking garage at 101 W. Philadelphia St. at about 8:30 p.m. on May 20, 2016, according to court documents.
The video of Bair's arrest, taken by his friend, was posted on Facebook not long after the incident. The video showed an officer getting into a physical confrontation with Bair.
Bair is suing in federal court and is seeking punitive damages. Kelley said he is not yet sure how much money Bair is seeking.
Lawsuit: Bair, 28, was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and noise disturbance. According to online court records, in May 2017 Bair pleaded no contest to a summary offense of disorderly conduct, which is akin in seriousness to a traffic ticket, and his other charges, all misdemeanors, were dismissed.
He was ordered to pay $300 and was sentenced to 25 hours of community service, according to court records.
Bair's lawsuit states that because he was charged with resisting arrest, a misdemeanor offense, he was required to post bail, but the bail was beyond his financial means, and he was incarcerated for 90 days.
Initially his bail was set at $10,000, but it was dropped to $5,000 unsecured about two weeks later, court records state. He was held until late August 2016 on a probation violation detainer, according to online court records.
When someone on probation is charged with a crime, they are held until a judge can determine if probation was violated.
The York County District Attorney's Office dropped the resisting arrest charge because it could not be proven, according to the suit. There was no plea bargain or other arrangement with Bair, the suit states.
Kelley, who represented Bair in his criminal case, said the DA's office dropped the charges because it was a weak case.
He said Bair never resisted arrest, but that resisting arrest claim had to be made to explain the injuries Bair received during the altercation.
Bair's suit also states that during his arrest, Craven assaulted him by hitting him in the face, head and midsection. Those injuries, according to the suit, caused "excruciating headaches" that happened several times a day for about 90 days before subsiding.
Had Bair only been charged with disorderly conduct, he would not have gone to prison because it is a summary offense, according to the suit.
The lawsuit also alleges that York City and Kahley did not take any meaningful action to seriously investigate the officers' wrongful actions, and that the officers were not subjected to any disciplinary action for their actions.
Don Hoyt, the city's solicitor, said he will be defending the city, Kahley and the four officers in the case.
"We will vigorously defend this case — we're confident our officers did nothing wrong," he said.
The incident: According to York City Police, Craven was heard yelling from the second level of the parking garage at 101 W. Philadelphia St.
Police said two men were leaning over the wall, yelling profanities and waving their arms. When Craven reached the top of the lot, the two men were sitting in their cars.
When Craven asked them what they were doing, they said, "It's a free country," officials said. Craven told them there were families trying to eat outside the White Rose restaurant, which is across the street from the parking garage.
According to documents, Craven told them he was investigating a disorderly conduct incident and asked for their identification. One man provided his, but Bair refused, according to police.
"Get your f—ing hand off my door," Bair told Craven, officials said.
After refusing to give his ID again, Bair asked for Craven's name and badge number, which he gave, according to documents. According to the description of the video, Craven did not provide his identification.
After that, Bair refused to provide his ID again and said Craven was nothing without his gun, charging documents indicate.
One of the passengers in the other vehicle got out and walked toward Craven, prompting Craven to pull his Taser out and ask him to go back to his car, which he did.
Craven asked Bair to exit the vehicle, which he did not, so Craven opened the car door and commanded him to exit, documents state.
Police said Bair responded with profanity and lurched toward Craven in an aggressive, threatening manner.
According to the lawsuit, Craven informed Bair that he had a choice, give him his identification or be arrested when backup arrived. Irvin, Sable and Smith arrived, and Craven told Bair that he was under arrest, the lawsuit states.
Bair remained in his car, restrained by the seat belt, and Craven opened the driver's side door and began to assault him, while Bair made no effort to defend himself, the suit alleges.
Sable went to the passenger side door but found the door was locked, according to the lawsuit. Sable heard Bair ask for help, and the suit alleges that Sable, Irvin and Smith did not take any steps to protect Bair from the "unreasonable and excessive" force used by Craven, despite having a duty to do so.
Craven handcuffed Bair, and another officer took Bair to the county's central booking unit for arraignment. Irvin had a body camera on that recorded the incident, but Bair was only given audio and not video from the incident, according to the suit.
A video of Bair's arrest was posted on Facebook the weekend that he was sent to prison, and it was viewed about 250,000 times in two days. The page hosting the original video has since been removed.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.