A federal judge has given Philadelphia man Allen Brown the go-ahead to sue two state troopers who set him on fire with Tasers during a traffic stop on the Schuylkill Expressway four years ago.
Officers Peter Burghart and Justin LeMaire attempted to pull Brown over for riding a friend's plate-less motor scooter without a helmet, then Tased him at least seven times following a low-speed chase, according to court documents.
The pursuit ground to a halt when Brown tried to turn into an apartment complex and was knocked off the vehicle by a cable blocking its entrance.
"Mr. Brown was on the ground, gas spilled from the motorcycle and when they used the Taser on him, the Taser ignited the gasoline, causing him to be burned," his attorney Gus Cammisa said Thursday. "The claimants were well aware they should not have used Tasers given the presence of this flammable material."
Brown was first Tased four to five times by LeMaire for repeatedly resisting arrest. Five minutes later, Burghart joined in, Tasing him multiple times, including at least once after one of the strikes ignited Brown and LeMaire put him out with a fire extinguisher.
Burghart testified that after Brown's body was extinguished, he began to "half-circle" the officer while making threats, but Brown countered he has no memory of any events after he was set on fire – other than waking up in the hospital, where he was treated for burns and other injuries.
The troopers – who both had never used their weapons – testified they are trained in the risk of Taser use around flammable substances. "Their claim is that they were not aware of the presence of gasoline – or at least they didn't consider it," Cammisa said.
Brown later pleaded guilty to DUI and attempting to elude an officer.
A judge denied the troopers' request to throw out the suit in late May. Brown is currently awaiting the judge's ruling on a motion from Burghart asking the judge to reconsider that decision.
Cammisa also amended the complaint to clarify that the claim against LeMaire is for his failure to stop Burghart from using his Taser near the accident scene, as it was Burghart's strike that actually ignited Brown.
An attorney representing the state police declined comment on the pending litigation.