LANCASTER COUNTY — A former Lancaster resident is suing five Lancaster City Police Officers, claiming they used excessive force and injured him after he “extended his middle finger” at one of them during a 2017 encounter at North Prince and West Orange streets.
John White, 29, who now lives in California, is asking for a judgement of more than $150,000 in the lawsuit, which was filed last Friday in Pennsylvania’s Eastern District court. The lawsuit claims the officers used “unreasonable and excessive force” when they tackled White and kneed him on the ground.
The lawsuit names Lancaster Bureau of Police officers Joel Thomas, Steven Reich, Matthew Deibler, Paul Blanchflower, and Christopher Kophamel, along with the City of Lancaster, which the suit claims is liable and responsible for its police force and failing to provide training and supervision relating to the use of force.
According to the lawsuit, the encounter occurred on Sept. 17, 2017, near downtown bar. A group of about 50 people were fighting.
Accounts of what occurred next differ.
Police say White crossed the street to Catalina’s, circled the group, yelled derogatory statements and pointed his middle finger at Reich, who was at the scene.
The lawsuit alleges White was walking past a nearby gas station toward his vehicle, accompanied by his mother, when he extended his middle finger at Reich, who was handling a disturbance in the gas station parking lot. Reich motioned to other officers to arrest White, according to the lawsuit.
Thomas and Deibler, who were handling a disturbance outside Catalina’s Bar on West Orange Street, moved to detain White, the lawsuit claims. Thomas tackled White without announcing who he was, and kneed him to the ground, the lawsuit alleges.
The five officer then dragged White from the scene, according to the lawsuit.
White claims in the lawsuit that he suffered injuries to his left elbow, leg, and knee, along with a head injury, facial abrasions, and several contusions.
Reich cited White with disorderly conduct a few days later, according to court records.