A man who was kicked by a Pennsylvania police officer is suing Allentown city officials and members of its police department, alleging that arresting officers violated his civil rights when they used excessive force during the 2015 incident and that city and police officials attempted to cover it up. On May 30, 2015, Allentown police officer Joseph M. Iannetta kicked Hector Medina-Pena in the head as he was on the ground on all fours after the car he was riding in was stopped by police, the lawsuit alleges. The incident was captured on dashcam video.
In a statement, current Allentown Police Chief Keith Morris said Medina-Pena matched the description of an armed robbery suspect who had held up a strip club that day before getting into a car with three other individuals and driving off. “A detailed description of the getaway vehicle and the criminal suspect who displayed the weapon was broadcast, and due to diligent police work the vehicle was quickly located with the four suspects inside,” Morris said.
After the car was stopped, Medina-Pena “repeatedly refused to comply” with Iannetta’s orders and reached into the area of his waistband several times, Morris said. “Concerned about this suspect, who was reported by the victims to be armed, Officer Iannetta took action to protect himself … [taking the] later-convicted robber into custody by using the minimal amount of force necessary.”
Medina-Pena later pleaded guilty to robbery and was sentenced to up to 10 years in state prison. The suit states Medina-Pena was riding in the left rear seat of a Ford Explorer with three other people in the car when police signaled for the driver to pull over. Once the car was stopped, Medina-Pena “immediately” complied with Iannetta’s instructions to show his hands and exit the car, according to the complaint. He then “got down on his knees and raised his hands over his head in plain view of all police officers on scene” while the driver and other passengers did the same, the suit states.
Medina-Pena was “defenseless” when Iannetta approached him with his gun drawn and performed a “WWE”-style kick to the right side of his head and face, causing him to crumple to the ground “in extreme pain,” according to the complaint. The kick was in “full view” of at least one of the other police officers on the scene, the suit states. As Medina-Pena lied “immobile” on the ground, officer Patrick Bull, also named in the complaint, then positioned himself on top of him, with his left knee pressing into Medina-Pena’s back and his gun pointing at the other two passengers, who were lying on the sidewalk with their hands showing, according to the complaint.
Iannetta then approached the driver of the Explorer, “who had his hands displayed as requested,” and pointed his gun at the driver’s face before “violently” ripping him out of the car and throwing him to the ground, the complaint states. Iannetta then jumped on the driver and rolled on top of him while continuing to point his gun at his face, according to the suit. Neither Medina-Pena nor the driver resisted arrest “in any way,” the complaint states. While Medina-Pena was still on the ground with Bull on top of him and his hands pinned behind his back, Iannetta allegedly “threw his body down, knee first, directly onto the back of [Medina-Pena’s] head and face” using “all his weight and as much force as he could muster,” the lawsuit states.
“It was immediately apparent to any observer that the Plaintiff, who now laid motionless, bleeding and seriously injured, presented no threat, provided no resistance and was completely defenseless before these unwarranted criminal assaults were inflicted by Defendant Iannetta,” according to the complaint. According to the suit, once on the ground, Medina-Pena “was immediately searched, and found not to be in possession of any weapons or contraband.”
Paramedics arrived at the scene after Medina-Pena had lain motionless on the ground for several minutes and observed “obvious and significant” injuries to his head and face, the lawsuit states. It also alleges that he suffered a fractured jaw and had three teeth knocked out, which were only held in place due to his recently installed braces. Medina-Pena was hospitalized for three days following the incident, the complaint states. Medina-Pena will continue to require medical treatment in the future and faces some possibly permanent issues, according to the complaint.