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Florida Cops Sued For Violently Detaining Men After Thinking 'Star Trek' Memorabilia Were Weapons

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Two brothers are suing Fort Lauderdale police for allegedly violating civil rights law and detaining them with violent force after mistaking Star Trek memorabilia for real weapons.

The Miami Herald reported Raymond and Randall Purcell filed a civil rights lawsuit on Monday and are seeking $75,000 in damages in connection to an earlier incident in 2017 involving Officer Alexander Paul—who violently detained a then 62-year-old Raymond.

Paul, along with Officer Steven Pohorence—who was charged with a first-degree misdemeanor battery last year involving protesters in the wake of George Floyd's death and Fort Lauderdale police—responded to Raymond's emergency call about a relative keying his and his wife's cars.

But Raymond was told by the officers there would be no arrests or police reports filed since the damages to the car appeared to be under $1,000 and the relative was no longer near the vicinity.

Furious with the response, Raymond pounded the hood of his car with his fists and tossed the flashlight he was using to show the vandalism on his vehicle "in a direction opposite of where the officers stood."

The suit said Paul slammed Raymond to the ground after the officer struck him with the butt of his gun and pulled his arms with such force, "Raymond heard a snap in his arms and went limp."

The officer also punched Raymond in the face "with so much force that it knocked Raymond's acrylic partial dentures out of his mouth."

All the while, Raymond kept pleading with Paul to stop because he was disabled.

When Raymond's brother, Randall, intervened, Officer Poherence kicked Randall and stepped on his face, leaving a deep laceration near his eye.

The officers said in depositions they felt threatened by Raymond because they were cognizant of him having a concealed gun permit and a firearm on the premises.

Paul added he saw "weapons all over the wall," but the suit clarified the display was a collection of Star Trek memorabilia and decorative blades.

When asked if the officers had probable cause to arrest Raymond, they said they did not.

Poherence claimed:

"We were detaining him for an officer-safety issue."

The plaintiff's attorneys wrote:

"As a direct and proximate result of the city's negligent supervision, retention and training of defendants Pohorence and Paul, [the Purcells] were subject to injury, including deprivations of their civil rights and state law rights."

According to the suit, the Purcells "suffered damages, including mental anguish, bodily injury, pain and suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, loss of earnings, and loss of ability to earn money."

A police internal affairs investigation that ended in 2019 cleared the officers, but the lawsuit claimed the files were never sent to the Citizens' Police Review Board.

According to the news outlet, the final pages of the 34-page complaint said the city and its police department "maintain a de facto practice of concealing officer misconduct," and that both failed to investigate the behavior of both officers.

The filing said:

"The city and its Police Department supervisors and superiors knew its officers were initiating unlawful searches and seizures as well as using excessive force against Fort Lauderdale civilians and residents."
"It took no action to train or discipline its police officers to avoid the constitutional violations discussed in this Complaint."

The Purcells' attorney, Michael T. Davis said:

"It is unfortunate and unsurprising that the Fort Lauderdale Police Department's internal affairs investigation cleared both officers of wrongdoing."
"It is yet another example of the need for a system in which these types of investigations seek justice rather than justification."
Meanwhile, Paul is being sued for another incident involving shooting 30-year-old Melvin Wring during a confrontation at a bus stop.

Wring alleged Paul used unnecessary deadly force and is seeking a minimum of $30,000 in damages.

Poherence has been with the force for four years and was previously under investigation by the department's internal affairs unit for use of force 79 times, according to The Hill.

He is currently on unpaid administrative leave.