Lawsuit alleges York-area man beaten by Harrisburg Police, county workers

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Jarrett Leaman of York alleges Harrisburg Police and Dauphin County correctional officers beat him repeatedly while he was unconscious at the Dauphin County Booking Center.

A 24-year-old York-area college student who maintains he was repeatedly beaten by Harrisburg police officers and Dauphin County correctional officers in June has filed a federal lawsuit alleging "extreme" excessive force.

"After reviewing (security) footage with (Harrisburg Police) internal affairs we discovered this could happen to anybody," said the student's attorney, Leticia Chavez-Freed.

Jarrett Leaman, 24, suffered severe fracturing of his eye bone, cuts and bruises "from head to toe" and other injuries during and after his arrest by Harrisburg Police for public drunkenness on June 29, according to Chavez-Freed and the lawsuit.

County corrections officers working in Dauphin County's booking center, which is next to the county prison, failed to get Leaman medical attention for his injuries, she said.

"He's trying to put his life back together," Chavez-Freed said. "He remains so shocked that this can happen to people. He's still trying to make sense of this."

Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo said the incident remains under investigation by county detectives.

"We're still looking into this and haven't reached a final conclusion," he told The York Dispatch. "We want to get a complete picture."

Chardo confirmed the investigation is looking into the circumstances around both Leaman's arrest and his detention in the booking unit, which is in the county's judicial center in Swatara Township.

Some corrections officers from the booking center have been suspended without pay for the incident involving Leaman, and a Harrisburg police officer is on desk duty, according to Chavez-Freed. 

Chardo, who also has seen the security footage, confirmed it's his understanding that corrections officers have been suspended without pay pending the investigation.

'Like a group sport': Chavez-Freed described for The York Dispatch what she saw on the booking-center security footage of her client the night he was arrested.

"What happened that night was horrific," she said. "You would see (corrections officers) go up to him and hurt him and just smile. (Leaman) is passed out on a chair. ... It's like a group sport."

In the federal lawsuit, she described it as "Lord of the Flies"-level violence and said Leaman was passive and docile — and drifting in and out of consciousness — during the alleged assaults.

"This is a kid with no police history," Chavez-Freed said.

The arrest: Leaman was out with friends — all 20-somethings — in the Old Midtown section of Harrisburg, drinking beer and playing pool in bars there, she said.

"He had a few beers. After that, he doesn't remember anything," his attorney said. "We believe that is because he was beaten so seriously, his memory was affected."

The lawsuit states Leaman was visibly intoxicated and nonresponsive at the time of his arrest.

He remains under the care of multiple doctors, including specialists, Chavez-Freed said.

"Apparently Jarrett ran down a sidewalk. He didn't hit anyone or anything," she said.

Harrisburg Police Officer Christopher Mackie tackled Leaman to the ground outside the Cork & Fork restaurant to arrest him, according to Chavez-Freed.

"The next thing that (Leaman) remembers is waking up before 5:00 a.m. the next day in a cell at the County Prison," his face "swollen, bloody, and disfigured," the lawsuit states.

He was released before 5:30 a.m. so he could seek medical attention, and he went to a local hospital, Chavez-Freed said. There, he took a selfie of his facial injuries and sent the photo to his father, she said.

At some point, Leaman learned corrections officers used his PayPal account without his permission, the lawsuit states.

Mackie cited Leaman for public drunkenness, according to county court records, which state Leaman pleaded guilty to the summary offense on July 5.

Pummeled, punched, piled on? While Leaman was being held at the booking center, various corrections officers pummeled him; piled on top of him "as he lay motionless on the cement floor" and punched, kicked and beat him; and one corrections officer "thrust" his knees into Leaman's back and neck and kneeled on him for more than 2 minutes, the lawsuit alleges.

"After multiple beatings, (Leaman) was handcuffed and placed in a Correctional Roll-in-Chair with straps. Once placed in the Correctional Roll-in-Chair, Correctional officers continued punching, kicking, kneeing and assaulting Mr. Leaman, who remained completely docile," the lawsuit states.

Leaman, still in the chair, was then rolled into a cell and had a spit mask put on his face, "even though (he) was not spitting and remained barely conscious," according to the lawsuit, which alleges that was done "in order to hide the shocking injuries to (Leaman's) face," the lawsuit alleges.

The spit mask remained on Leaman's face for hours as he drifted in and out of consciousness, according to the lawsuit. During that time, a police officer went into the cell, had a corrections officer lift the spit mask and took a photo of Leaman's face — "as if he were photographing a prized catch," the lawsuit claims.

Named in lawsuit: Mackie is named as a defendant in Leaman's civil-rights lawsuit, filed July 23. Other defendants are Harrisburg Police, Dauphin County and its judicial center, a partially named Harrisburg police officer, and corrections officers.

None of the defendants has a listed attorney, according to federal court records, and Mackie could not be reached for comment.

"Officer Mackie has quite the history," Chavez-Freed said. She claims he was one of the officers involved in a May 16 incident on State Street in Harrisburg in which police shouted profanities at neighbors and at a critically wounded gunshot victim lying on the ground.

Mackie was hired by Harrisburg Police in 2018 after resigning from the Virginia Beach Police Department, where he had been disciplined for shocking a teenager with a Taser in 2015, according to local news reports there.

In 2017, Mackie was found liable in a lawsuit filed by a man who claimed police used excessive force when arresting him in 2014, a local news station reported. The victim was awarded $5,000 and Virginia Beach said it would pay that award, WTKR Channel 3 reported in February 2017.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.