July 25, 2005 The movie theater attendant, who according to witnesses, was assaulted by an off-duty police officer, has filed suit against the officer and the V.I. government for civil rights violations.
Gretta L. George, an employee of Caribbean Cinemas, was allegedly pushed through the theater's glass door and down onto the sidewalk, after asking Earl Rogers, a V.I. police officer, to exit the building through the proper door. ( See "Witness Says Off-Duty Officer Assaulted Movie Usher"). The incident occurred about 4:30 p.m. on July 17.
The court documents echo the story pretty much as it has been told in the media, alleging that Rogers not only assaulted George, but also used his position as a police officer to intimidate the 52-year-old woman by handcuffing her and threatening to arrest her.
The complaint says that though Rogers claimed he was a police officer when George asked him to exit through the appropriate door, he neither showed a badge nor suggested there was an emergency that required him to leave through the entrance door.
As for the government's role, the suit says it was grossly negligent in its failure to provide training and supervision in "how to effect a lawful arrest and what constitutes probable cause for an arrest."
The suit papers say the government has maintained a system of review of police conduct through its departments, including Internal Affairs, "which is so untimely and cursory as to be ineffective and to permit and tolerate the unreasonable and excessive use of force, punishment and denial of Constitutional right by police officers."
The complaint goes on to say the failures of the system have allowed police officers to believe they can get away with abuse of power.
Acting Police Commissioner James McCall said Monday that Rogers is on desk duty. "He's not on the street," pending the outcome of two investigations that were called for shortly after the incident.
In response to the allegations of an out-of-control police force, McCall would only say relative to the incident in question, "That's why I turned it over to Internal Affairs and the AG's [Attorney General] office."
McCall said he has confidence in the checks and balances provided in the justice system. And he said, "We can always call on federal agencies."
One thing not previously reported was that Rogers allegedly did not use police standard-issue handcuffs and that once he placed one of the handcuffs on George's wrist, he did not have a key to unlock it. So, instead of putting the second handcuff on George's other wrist, the documents allege that he placed the second handcuff on the same wrist that the first one was attached to. The handcuffs were finally removed after George got to the hospital. In fact, the complaint says Rogers showed up at the hospital looking for the handcuffs, and saying he wanted to know when George was getting out of the hospital so he could arrest her.
No arrest has been made.
Another aspect of the incident that was not previously reported was what Rogers allegedly told George's boyfriend, Fenton Williams, when he arrived on the scene after being called by theater personnel.
Williams allegedly spoke directly with Rogers, who told Williams he would accept a written apology from George, and if he got it would "forget the whole thing."
When Williams relayed Rogers' offer to George, she said she wasn't going to do that because she "did not do anything," the suit papers say.
George, who spent two days in the hospital after the incident, is suing for both compensatory and punitive damages. Attorney Julie German Evert, George's attorney, filed the complaint in District Court midday Monday. She has demanded a jury trial.
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