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Lawsuit against York City officer dropped, 2nd suit heading to federal trial in October

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

One of two excessive-force civil lawsuits against a York City police officer has been dropped.

Attorneys for plaintiff Jason Watts filed a stipulation of dismissal of their civil complaint on Feb. 22 in Harrisburg's federal court, according to court records.

The stipulation states that Watts was voluntarily withdrawing his lawsuit against Officer Galen Detweiler and York City.

Watts had alleged Detweiler yanked his arm during an Aug. 10 traffic stop, causing an injury that required surgery.

York City solicitor Don Hoyt said Wednesday the lawsuit was dropped "because every single one of his allegations were false."

Dashboard camera footage proved that, Hoyt said.

York City Police Officer Galen Detweiler returns to his squad car after stopping a driver who violated pedestrian safety during an enforcement detail at the intersection of North George Street and Clarke Avenue in York City, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert

Earlier lawsuit: The lawsuit filed against Detweiler by Melissa Dyann Penn is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 13, according to federal court records.

Hoyt said he anticipates the trial will happen.

York City is no longer a defendant in the lawsuit, and Detweiler is the sole remaining defendant, court records state.

Penn, 24, filed suit against Detweiler and others in April 2018, alleging Detweiler used excessive force when arresting her outside Pandora's Box, a bar at 466 E. Market St., in July 2017.

A cellphone video of the physical struggle between Penn and Detweiler went viral.

A video showing a physical confrontation between a York City police officer and York City resident Melissa Dyann Penn on July 3, 2017, was widely shared on social media.
(Video courtesy of Facebook)

Penn resisted arrest and was punched in the face repeatedly by Detweiler, who testified at her preliminary hearing that she had been thrown out of the bar for being unruly but refused to leave the property, and that the bar owner asked him to remove her.

People including Penn's father tried to get her to leave, warning her police were going to step in, but Penn said, "I don't give a f— about the cops," according to Detweiler.

More:House arrest, probation for woman punched in face by York City cop

Penn's father started to carry her away but she broke free and headed back, which is when Detweiler tried to arrest her, he testified, adding that Penn was able to subvert all the "compliance measures" he was trying, then kicked him in the sternum and wrapped her arms around his neck.

Detweiler testified that's when he struck her four times in the face "in an effort to daze and disorient her," adding that the struggle lasted less than a minute.

Penn pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and defiant trespass in December 2017, in exchange for a felony count of aggravated assault being dropped. She was sentenced to two years of probation, with the first three months on house arrest.

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Plain View Project: Detweiler was one of many officers publicly named by the Plain View Project. The named officers had made Facebook posts that the project's researchers believed could hurt the public's trust in police.

Detweiler had posted "Bucket list: Punch a guy so hard he poops himself... (check mark)."

More:York City investigating after cops' Facebook posts compiled by Plain View Project

Penn's lawsuit claims York City didn't adequately investigate Detweiler's background before hiring him, including his social-media posts and disciplinary history.

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