Suit: PPD officers kicked in 60-year-old’s teeth, stole $75k
Autobody shop owner Michael Tierney, 60, and mechanic Warren Layre, also 60, have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia and five of its police officers for allegedly searching the shop without a warrant, beating and threatening Layre and seizing the property from Tierney during a 2011 narcotics bust.
Layre is seeking compensation for “injuries to his head and brain, his oral cavity and teeth, his hands and scrotum,” as well as the alleged destruction of his property and unreasonable seizure of his cash – portions of which, he says, were pocketed by police rather than officially reported.
Tierney is seeking compensation for the seizure of his auto shop – which is still owned by the city of Philadelphia. He claims a search warrant the officers obtained was based on information they knew was untrue.
The two men further allege the city of Philadelphia has encouraged or has been “deliberately indifferent” to officers using excessive force, falsifying testimony and evidence and violating citizens’ civil rights. They claim officers who are known to be suffering from emotional or psychological problems aren’t properly monitored and that officers who have been the subject of prior civilian or internal complaints aren’t properly disciplined.
The men have requested a jury trial and are seeking damages for actions they claim “constitute assault, battery, false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
The complaint alleges four officers and a lieutenant on June 23 “broke through the garage office door with a battering ram” and proceeding to search the shop on the 500 block of West Sedgwick Street without a warrant.
The officers – who were allegedly plain-clothed, had their guns drawn and didn’t identify themselves – handcuffed Layre and two other employees, forced them to the floor and “began searching the shop for money and contraband,” according to the complaint.
One of the officers allegedly claimed to be an FBI agent and threatened Layre, saying he was in a bad mood because he’d been driving all day from a case in Virginia and threatening to “shoot you [Plaintiff Layre] in the head, myself” if Layre didn’t tell him where the drugs and money were hidden.
A second officer struck Layre on the back of a head with a steel pipe, causing him to lose consciousness, the suit states. When Layre regained consciousness, the officer kicked him the mouth “causing the upper row of Plaintiff Layre’s teeth to separate from their roots and to bend back toward his throat,” the complaint reads. “Subsequently, the entire upper row of Plaintiff Layre’s teeth had to be extracted by his dentist.”
The suit further alleges the same officer kicked Layre twice in the scrotum, dislocated his index finger, “then placed his service firearm to the head of Plaintiff Layre and said, ‘This is a .40 caliber Glock and I will blow your head off with it, you stinkin’ drug junkie, if you don’t tell me where the money and drugs are.’”
Layre was by that time seriously injured and could no longer respond, the suit alleges. It states the officer then took one of Layre’s BB guns from the shop, loaded it and shot the windshields of several vehicles parked on site, saying “We’ll keep going until one gets your attention.”
Layre claims his face and chest were bloodied, his shirt was torn off and his glasses were shattered, but he was taken to the police station without being given any medical attention.
The officers seven days later obtained a search warrant for the auto shop, but the suit alleges the document was based on information investigators knew was untrue.
One officer in the affidavit to the search warrant stated that a man arrested in Roxborough who was allegedly holding 24 grams of methamphetamine and $24,000 in cash told police he’d bought the meth from Layre and was being paid to deliver the money to Layre’s girlfriend.
Layre claims the officers knew the allegations were false and that the Roxborough man had in fact told them “the money was loaned to him by Plaintiff Layre to pay off the probate fees, inheritance taxes and liens on the property that his recently deceased grandfather had left him.”
He also alleges the officers actually seized $33,400, but under-reported the amount so they could keep $9,400 for themselves.
The suit alleges two bags found stuffed in an auto exhaust pipe that contained an estimated 538 grams of methamphetamine were planted by a man acting as a confidential informant. Layre believes the man hid it on the premises several days prior to the search.
Though officers claimed to seize $6,600 from the shop, they actually took $41,000 that Layre had rolled up in a shirt and hidden under a 1966 Chevelle, according to the suit.
Layre claims he legitimately earned the money by selling scrap metal and believes the informant tipped police off to its existence. He’s alleging the officers kept for themselves the unreported $34,400.
Third time’s a charm?
The officers returned to the auto shop a third time in July of 2011, when Layre was incarcerated. They allegedly again did not have a warrant.
“During this search, the officers did extensive damage to autos, antique autos, antique motorcycles, parts and inventory in the shop,” the complaint reads.
It claims they used hydraulic equipment to force open the trunks of many cars owned by customers and shop owner Tierney and kicked out the interior downspout necessary for roof drainage, which later resulted in floods.
One officer allegedly spray painted his name on the shop wall.
The auto shop was in July sealed and seized by the city of Philadelphia and currently remains in the city’s possession.
Officers with the Narcotics Field Unit in June of 2011 seized from Citizens Bank in Conshohocken a safe deposit box containing $84,000 in cash and valuables and a bank account containing $92,638.97, both of which were in Layre’s name.
Layre alleges a separate checking account at National Penn Bank in his name containing $179,000 was also seized, but never reported.
He said the cash seized from the auto shop, safe deposit box and bank accounts “were all lawfully acquired proceeds from the earnings and investments made by Plaintiff Layre during the course of his lifetime” and documented on tax returns from 1969 through 2011.