In the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in October 2014, Charlie Harrison, 58, alleged several city police officers, including a K-9, assaulted him after a traffic stop.
“We are pleased that there was some measure of justice done for our client,” Jennifer Bonjean, Harrison’s attorney, said Friday. “A monetary award is really the only outcome in a civil litigation. Money cannot fully make someone whole who has been victimized by the police, but it was a good settlement.”
On Nov. 14, 2012, Officers Michael Oldroyd, Anthony Alosi, Rebecca Seabrook and Bounthamal Thavisack allegedly kicked Harrison in his face and body until he lost consciousness, and Officer Michelle Clarke released a K-9 on him, “causing deep lacerations, scarring and permanent damage,” according to the suit.
According to the suit, Harrison was gambling at the now-shuttered Atlantic Club Casino Hotel on Nov. 13, 2012, and was asked to leave by security, who called police. About 2 a.m. the next morning, Oldroyd followed Harrison’s black Mercedes and pulled him over near Virginia and Pacific avenues. Thavisack and Alosi also responded.
After getting kicked out of a club for his drunkenness and then getting denied entry from multiple Atlantic City establishments in 2012, Charlie Harrison was driving down Pacific Avenue and swerving when officer Michael Oldroyd spotted him and tried to pull him over.
Initially, Harrison didn’t stop, continuing to drive 5 to 10 miles per hour, said Jennifer Bonjean, his attorney, at the openings of the trial. When he eventually did pull over, Oldroyd and a group of officers pulled their guns on Harrison as they shouted orders at him to get out of the car.
A confused Harrison began walking to Oldroyd before the officer “gave him a nice punch in the face” followed by several more, Bonjean said at the openings.
Soon after a K-9 bit him from behind, Harrison dropped to the ground and officers began “raining punches” to the point of him blacking out, Bonjean said. The officers “physically beat” Harrison, according to the suit, and “Clarke’s K-9 partner viciously attacked Plaintiff, who was not resisting arrest or committing any other crime.”
Harrison was charged with assault of a police officer, resisting arrest, eluding police, reckless driving, unsafe lane change and driving while intoxicated. He ended up pleading guilty to eluding police, with all other charges dismissed, according to the suit.
A look into the Atlantic City police department as part of the The Force Report, a 16-month investigation by NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, found that the department often seemed indifferent to officers with violent tendencies, leaving them on the street without repercussions.
Oldroyd was one of those officers.
The 14-year officer used force 50 times from 2012 to 2016. But he wasn’t told about his high rate until February 2014, he said in a deposition. His command staff told him they did not give credence to internal affairs complaints against him and to continue policing how he was. Oldroyd tallied 91 internal affairs complaints — 46 of which were for excessive force — during a stretch of his career.
Bonjean has relentlessly sued Atlantic City over the past five years on behalf of alleged victims of police brutality. The Brooklyn-based attorney has won more than $6 million for her clients in excessive force civil lawsuits.
She is currently representing two young black men who allege in a federal lawsuit that two Atlantic City police officers performed an illegal stop and began harassing them, with one of them telling them that if they “frog up,” his 90-pound dog “is gonna come out and rip the f-- outta you.”