Lawsuit Claims New Haven Police Violated Civil Rights

Two years after he was arrested while videotaping an altercation involving New Haven police, Luis Luna has filed a lawsuit against the city, several officers, the former police chief and the former assistant chief.

The lawsuit claims New Haven police violated Luna's civil rights.

According to his attorney, Diane Polan, Luna was riding his bike on Crown Street on the morning of Sept. 25, 2011, when he noticed the incident and stopped to record it on his iPhone.

It's not clear exactly what Luna saw, but Polan said he "observed several police officers interacting with civilians."

Those officers confronted Luna and placed him under arrest. His phone was confiscated and the video erased, according to Polan.

Polan said Luna is a former photojournalist. He was charged with interfering with an officer and was held overnight at the police department. The charges were brought before the New Haven Superior Court and later dropped.

Former Asst. Police Chief Ariel Melendez, who allegedly asked an officer to delete the video from Luna's phone, was investigated after the incident and accused of "conduct unbecoming an officer," according to Polan.

Melendez retired shortly thereafter, Polan said.

“[The] police conduct in this case is a clear violation of not only Mr. Luna’s First Amendment right to take photographs of the actions of police, but it is also a threat to the rights of journalists and photojournalists everywhere in this country to practice their profession without fear of arrest,” said Polan, in a statement.

City officials said they are aware of the suit.

“The City will review the lawsuit and respond accordingly at the appropriate time,” said City of New Haven Corporation Counsel Victor A. Bolden.

New Haven police spokesman Officer David Hartman said, "we are not permitted to comment on such litigation."

"Such stories are unfortunate as they stir up unnecessary and unwarranted public scrutiny," Officer Hartman said.

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