Man su­ing city for toy gun ar­rest

Al­leges he suf­fered psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma, loss of dig­nity and more

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Cas­san­dra Day

“The de­fen­dants acted with mal­ice, pri­mar­ily for a pur­pose other than that of bring­ing an of­fender to jus­tice,” the law­suit says.

MID­DLE­TOWN — A man who is su­ing the city claims he was ar­rested un­der false pre­tenses and suf­fered ir­repara­ble dam­ages when po­lice ac­cused him of “bran­dish­ing” a toy gun while he was pay­ing his prop­erty taxes at Town Hall two years ago.

Robert Bara­nowsky, of Mid­dle­town, filed a com­plaint Aug. 30 in state Su­pe­rior Court in Mid­dle­town against the city, Mayor Dan Drew, Tax Col­lec­tor Tay­lor Fu­naro and po­lice Of­fi­cer Matthew Bloom, al­leg­ing ma­li­cious pros­e­cu­tion, un­rea­son­able seizure and in­ten­tional in­flic­tion of emo­tional distress.

The suit fol­lows Bara­nowsky’s ar­rest Sept. 25, 2015, on charges of sec­ond-de­gree breach of peace. The state later re­duced the charges to two counts of cre­at­ing a pub­lic dis­tur­bance and Bara­nowsky was even­tu­ally ac­quit­ted, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

The po­lice re­port said Bara­nowsky told Fu­naro, “You’re go­ing to think I’m crazy, but I have a kids’ toy gun on me to keep the kids en­ter­tained,” then pulled out the mock weapon from his back pocket and

placed it be­tween them.

Bara­nowsky took out his wal­let to pay the $1,500 in taxes, put the toy gun back into his pocket and left, au­thor­i­ties said. He al­leges the trans­ac­tion lasted nine min­utes. “At no time did the plain­tiff ‘bran­dish’ the toy, threaten any­one, or in any

way in­di­cate that the toy was, in fact, a real weapon,” the suit says.

Bara­nowsky told of­fi­cers he found the toy ear­lier in the day while clean­ing out his car, but didn’t re­al­ize it was in his pocket un­til he went to pay his bill, ac­cord­ing to the po­lice re­port.

Bara­nowsky’s com­plaint al­leges Drew di­rected Bloom to ar­rest him “with­out cause.”

Drew had no con­tact with the ar­rest­ing of­fi­cers in the case, Mid­dle­town Gen­eral Coun­sel Brig Smith said.

“The state brought crim­i­nal charges and, while the case did not ul­ti­mately re­sult in con­vic­tion, it was clearly se­ri­ous enough to bring the charges in the first in­stance,” Smith said.

The com­plaint al­leges Bara­nowsky suf­fered psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma, pro­found feel­ings of hu­mil­i­a­tion, loss of dig­nity, anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion, so­cial with­drawal, harm to his stand­ing in the com­mu­nity and he was un­able to work be­cause of the charges.

“The de­fen­dants acted with mal­ice, pri­mar­ily for a pur­pose other than that of bring­ing an of­fender to jus­tice,” the law­suit says.

“The city is de­fend­ing this case ag­gres­sively, as we take the safety of our ci­ti­zens and em­ploy­ees with the ut­most se­ri­ous­ness, es­pe­cially in these times,” said Smith. “Our em­ploy­ees had rea­son to fear for their safety and our po­lice depart­ment acted cor­rectly in ar­rest­ing Mr. Bara­nowsky for mis­de­meanor breach of peace.”

The toy gun had “an in­verted bar­rel, which on its face was a toy and ac­knowl­edged by the ar­rest­ing of­fi­cer to be a toy,” court doc­u­ments say.

Bara­nowsky is seek­ing mon­e­tary dam­ages in ex­cess of $15,000, puni­tive dam­ages and to re­coup his at­tor­ney's fees and re­lated costs.

On Oct. 4, the city filed a no­tice of re­moval to fed­eral court be­cause it in­volves a “fed­eral ques­tion and the de­pri­va­tion of con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected civil rights,” ac­cord­ing to the city’s mo­tion.

Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia file photo

Mid­dle­town City Hall

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