💲 The township of Toms River and a local man have reached a six-figure settlement

🚨 The man accused police of using excessive force when detaining him in his home

👮‍♂️ A former NYPD officer accused in the suit was sued twice before for excessive force

The township of Toms River has reached a $135,000 settlement with a local man who, in his home, was detained and shoved to the ground by police including an officer who previously faced two lawsuits for excessive force.

Miquenel Altidor, a Black Haitian man, and his young daughters were asleep when the Toms River police broke down his door at his Castle Drive home on Dec. 28, 2017. The officers were responding to a silent panic alarm that had gone off around 9 p.m.

Video showed that as cops secured the scene, Altidor complied with police orders. But while one officer placed him in cuffs, another cop identified as Anthony Pacella shoved Altidor to the ground and thrust his knee into his back.

Altidor made several claims against the township and police department including racism, excessive force, and negligent hiring in a lawsuit filed in 2018. In February this year, Toms River agreed to pay $135,000 to him and his family as part of a settlement, as first reported by TransparencyNJ.com's John Paff. New Jersey 101.5 has reached out to Toms River for comment.

Miquenel Altidor being detained (Toms River, NJ.com via Youtube)
Miquenel Altidor being detained (Toms River, NJ.com via Youtube)

🚨 Home alarm spurs police response

According to a court ruling in November, the Toms River police tried contacting people inside the home after the alarm went off and before they forced their way inside. Officers knocked on the door several times and a dispatcher called the house multiple times with no answer.

One cop peering through a window spotted a man in the foyer. When the officer shined his flashlight on the man, the individual moved away from the door but did not respond to police. After another six minutes, the officers made entry into the home with guns drawn.

The mysterious man turned out to be Altidor's brother. Still, Judge Michael Shipp said in his ruling that the entry was an appropriate response. Shipp added there was also no evidence the decision was racially motivated.

"To be sure, there is more than an objectively reasonable inference that a burglary or a hostage-in-process situation was unfolding," Shipp said. "No reasonable jury could conclude that [the officers] were motivated by racial animus."

Miquenel Altidor being detained (Toms River, NJ.com via Youtube)
An officer puts his knee on Altidor's back. (Toms River, NJ.com via Youtube)

👮‍♂️ Officer accused of excessive force

Altidor was asleep in his bedroom until officers knocked down his front door and rushed upstairs, according to court documents. He emerged from the room, saw the officers coming toward him, and outstretched his arms horizontally to show he was not armed or a threat.

Video shows that one officer, Sgt. Edmund Mooney, attempted to detain Altidor. Altidor got on his knees and put his arms behind his back. As the first officer went to handcuff him, Officer Pacella grabs Altidor on the upper back, shoves him to the ground, and puts his knee on the homeowner's back. The ruling notes that other officers saw Mooney

Judge Shipp in his ruling found that Altidor's claim of excessive force against Pacella was the "focal point" of the lawsuit. And while Shipp found the officers acted reasonably, he said a jury would need to determine whether Pacella's actions were warranted.

"The Court finds it dubious that Officer Pacella needed to use that level of force," Shipp said. "If a jury were to find that he used excessive force, it could also reasonably find that he acted recklessly and that his conduct was extreme and outrageous."

Toms River police vehicle (Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media NJ)
Toms River police vehicle (Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media NJ)

👮‍♂️ Cop hired despite previous accusations

According to Shipp's ruling, Officer Pacella admitted that he faced two claims of excessive force while serving the NYPD. The nature of the incidents and the outcomes of the litigation were not immediately available.

Court documents said it remained disputed whether Toms River knew about these accusations when it hired Pacella. The township told the court it ran background checks on all of its hired officers, including Pacella.

The judge found that Altidor's accusations of negligent hiring against the township would need to be weighed by a jury.

As Altidor and the township reached a settlement, the matter will not go to trial.

Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at richard.rickman@townsquaremedia.com

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