BEAVER, PA - Five Beaver County residents have sued Beaver, its police department and officer Jeff Wijnen-Riems in federal court, claiming they were brutalized by Wijnen-Riems and their civil rights were violated.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, seeks damages in excess of $75,000 for each of the following parties: Lorri Stiles and her husband, Joel Koslicki, both of 431 Rotteck St., Baden; Christopher E. Green of 239 Taylor Ave., Beaver; and Robert Capo Sr. and his son Benjamin, of 790 River Road, Beaver.
According to the lawsuit, filed by Ambridge attorneys James Ross and Charles F. Bowers III, Wijnen-Riems displayed a pattern of attacking people, and though his superiors in the police department were notified, they did nothing to stop the incidents.
According to the lawsuit, Green was at the Beaver police station on July 7, 2003, at the request of police who were investigating an incident that was not detailed in the lawsuit.
Green was taken to an interrogation room, where, the lawsuit says, Wijnen-Riems screamed at Green and accused him of giving police false information. Green was then handcuffed, and Wijnen-Riems slammed Green's upper body into a window, which shattered, injuring Green, the suit says.
Robert Capo and his family, after his unsuccessful run for mayor prior to September 2004, was being harassed by police, according to the suit.
On Sept. 28, 2004, Benjamin Capo was arrested after Wijnen-Riems was citing him with not having a light on his bicycle. Capo walked away as Wijnen-Riems was citing him, according to court records, and Wijnen-Riems is accused of assaulting Capo while arresting him and after taking him to the police station. The lawsuit says Wijnen-Riems put Capo in a chokehold, slammed his head into a glass door and hit his head with a clipboard.
When Capo's father arrived at the police station, Wijnen-Riems attacked the elder Capo, according to the lawsuit, putting him in a chokehold and slamming him into a wall, also injuring his wrists with handcuffs.
Both Capos were charged with various offenses, but those charges were dismissed in a preliminary hearing before District Judge C. Douglas Loughner.
According to Beaver Police Chief Anthony Hovanec, earlier complaints the Capos made about Wijnen-Riems' behavior that night have been forwarded to the FBI for investigation.
In another accusation, Stiles said she was arrested on Oct. 21, 2004, after she witnessed a fight at the McDonald's restaurant in Vanport Township.
When she approached Wijnen-Riems to tell him what she had seen, he "recognized Stiles as the person who wrote an editorial about the Beaver police in the local newspaper the previous year and told (Stiles) to shut up and insisted she was drunk," according to the suit.
Stiles was arrested and her blood tested, but no alcohol was found, according to the suit. But she was still taken to the Beaver County Jail, the suit says, where she remained for seven days after Wijnen-Riems charged her with aggravated assault by vehicle while driving drunk, along with other charges. The outcome of those charges was not available Friday afternoon.
Also according to the suit, Wijnen-Riems called Stiles' husband and told him that Stiles was having sex with another man in the back seat of a police car the night of her arrest and that she had tested positive for Viagra.
Attorneys said that along with the complaints in the lawsuits, others were made to Beaver police against Wijnen-Riems, but that Beaver police did not properly investigate the claims or discipline him.
Hovanec said Friday that he hadn't seen the lawsuit, so he couldn't comment on it or any of the allegations within it. Wijnen-Riems could not be reached for comment Friday.