Man in scuff le on video files race bias suit

Sues guard, city, po­lice over cof­fee shop episode

The Buffalo News - - CITY&REGION - By Aaron Besecker

A black man ar­rested last sum­mer after a phys­i­cal al­ter­ca­tion with a white se­cu­rity guard in a down­town cof­fee shop has filed a fed­eral law­suit al­leg­ing that he was the vic­tim of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and other civil rights vi­o­la­tions.

The in­ci­dent, which was cap­tured on video viewed widely on Face­book, re­sulted in charges against Dar­ryl Mingo of Buf­falo.

The charges against Mingo were later dis­missed. The se­cu­rity guard was not charged.

Mingo, 54, has found him­self on both sides of the law in the past. He also pre­vi­ously al­leged em­ploy­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion in an­other fed­eral law­suit.

His lat­est law­suit, filed Feb. 17 in fed­eral court, ac­cuses the City of Buf­falo and three po­lice of­fi­cers of false ar­rest, false im­pris­on­ment, ma­li­cious pros­e­cu­tion and other rights vi­o­la­tions. The suit al­leges the se­cu­rity guard and the guard’s em­ployer com­mit­ted as­sault and bat­tery. All de­fen­dants named in the law­suit were ac­cused of in­flict­ing emo­tional dis­tress.

The video of the in­ci­dent “re­ally speaks for it­self,” said Matthew Al­bert, Mingo’s at­tor­ney. Al­bert said his client was ar­rested after po­lice of­fi­cers chose not to re­view avail­able video and ig­nored wit­nesses who were try­ing to speak with them.

“They didn’t need any ev­i­dence be­cause they saw a black man, a black man of limited means, in a fight with a white man in a suit and tie,” he said. “That’s all they needed to know.”

Mingo, who was ar­rested quickly after po­lice ar­rived at the scene, had been charged with mis­de­meanor as­sault and two non­crim­i­nal vi­o­la­tions, ha­rass­ment and tres­pass­ing. A Buf­falo City Court judge dis­missed the charges against Mingo in Oc­to­ber.

Mingo says he was in po­lice cus­tody for more than 24 hours.

The law­suit iden­ti­fies the se­cu­rity guard as Ge­orge Bai­ley of the City of Ton­awanda and his em­ployer as Tran­swest­ern In­vest­ment Group LLC. Bai­ley was not work­ing as se­cu­rity for Tim Hor­tons at the time.

James W. Grable Jr., Bai­ley’s at­tor­ney, said the claims in the law­suit are “com­pletely with­out merit.”

“The no­tion that Ge­orge Bai­ley or any­one else who in­ter­acted with Mr. Mingo that day acted with wrong­ful in­tent or with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion is ab­surd,” Grable said in an email. “Mr. Mingo is a recre­ational lit­i­gant who likes to use the fed­eral court sys­tem to make false claims of race-based dis­crim­i­na­tion when­ever he’s look­ing for a wind­fall of money.”

Tran­swest­ern Vice Pres­i­dent Richard Carlisle de­clined to com­ment.

The three of­fi­cers named in the law­suit are Eric Au­gustyn, Joseph Petronella and Patrick Bag­got. All three are white. A city and Po­lice De­part­ment spokesman did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

The in­ci­dent hap­pened at about 8:30 a.m. July 19 in the Tim Hor­tons in the Lib­erty Build­ing at Main and Court streets. Mingo had pur­chased break­fast sand­wiches and a cof­fee, and went out­side to wait for his or­der, Mingo said in an in­ter­view. The same cir­cum­stances were out­lined in court papers.

When he went back in­side to pick up his or­der, Bai­ley was wait­ing in line and likely thought Mingo was try­ing to skip the line, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

The video starts with the ver­bal dis­pute at the counter. A short time later, Bai­ley pushes Mingo’s arm away as Mingo seems to reach for some­thing on the counter. Then Bai­ley wags his fin­ger in Mingo’s face.

At an­other point, when Mingo reaches past Bai­ley, Bai­ley grabs him by the shoul­der and shoves him, leav­ing Mingo on the floor, hav­ing fallen through a ta­ble and chairs. Mingo gets up, the two men stand face to face and ap­pear ready to fight. They start push­ing and Bai­ley slaps Mingo in the face. Then Mingo starts throw­ing punches and Bai­ley backs Mingo up against a win­dow and throws a punch.

Near the end of the 5-minute video, po­lice ar­rive and place Mingo in hand­cuffs.

Mingo ad­mits he got up­set, but he said that only hap­pened after Bai­ley made phys­i­cal con­tact with him. He said he told Bai­ley not to put his hands on him. That’s when he says the guard slapped him.

“Once you smack me like that, we’re go­ing to fight,” Mingo said in a phone in­ter­view with The Buf­falo News.

Mingo said he no longer vis­its that Tim Hor­tons lo­ca­tion.

In the past, Mingo has been both the vic­tim of a crime and the ac­cused per­pe­tra­tor.

He was charged at least three times be­tween 2001 and 2004 for vi­o­lat­ing or­ders of pro­tec­tion, ac­cord­ing to Buf­falo po­lice re­ports. In April 2012, he was ar­rested at a gas sta­tion on Fillmore Av­enue after an em­ployee told po­lice he was both­er­ing cus­tomers, ac­cord­ing to a po­lice re­port. In that case, the charges in­cluded re­sist­ing ar­rest.

“He’s made mis­takes, and he’s been held ac­count­able for them,” his at­tor­ney said. “Now, it’s time for the po­lice to be held ac­count­able.”

Mingo also has been robbed, shot at, stabbed and had his home shot at and bur­glar­ized be­tween 2002 and 2015, ac­cord­ing to po­lice re­ports.

In Au­gust 2014, Mingo filed a fed­eral law­suit against Main­streethost, a dig­i­tal market­ing agency in Buf­falo, al­leg­ing he was de­nied a pro­mo­tion based on his race and dis­abil­i­ties. The case was dis­missed four months later, upon Mingo’s re­quest. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Main­streethost did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

From the ar­rests to the other law­suit, none of it has to do with what hap­pened in the Tim Hor­tons last July, said Al­bert, Mingo’s at­tor­ney, who re­it­er­ated that the con­tents of the video are clear.

Mingo’s in­volve­ment with the law, on both sides, stems in part from the cy­cle of poverty and a lack of op­por­tu­nity, ac­cord­ing to Al­bert. The day be­fore the in­ci­dent at the cof­fee shop, Mingo at­tended his step­sis­ter’s funeral, Mingo said. Since then, Mingo has taken in her three chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to Al­bert.

“We firmly ex­pect char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion to be part of any de­fense. That’s pretty much the city’s de­fault de­fense in all th­ese in­stances,” he said. “Let’s not look at what our guys did; look at who they did it to.”

Ran­som said, bor­row­ing from the Army com­mer­cial.

With a 7-year-old son from her first mar­riage in tow, she served in Ger­many with the 8th In­fantry Divi­sion as a mil­i­tary po­lice of­fi­cer at a time when the Ber­lin Wall stood as a con­crete sym­bol of in­tense hos­til­i­ties be­tween the West and the Soviet Union.

“We were on alert very of­ten. That meant wher­ever we were, we had to get to the base and in for­ma­tion be­cause there might be a fight,” Ran­som said. “If you didn’t get back in a rea­son­able amount of time, you would be con­sid­ered AWOL.”

And though Ran­som joined the ser­vice to es­cape an un­happy mar­riage, she says she soon came to love the mil­i­tary.

“It was an ex­cit­ing time. We all had the same frame of mind. We were all there for the same mis­sion, to serve our coun­try,” said Ran­som, who was grate­ful the Cold War did not spin out of con­trol.

“I was a mom. What would I have done?”

For sev­eral months, her son Cor­nelius lived with her at the Lee Bar­racks in Mainz, Ger­many. To the other women sol­diers in their bar­rack, he was af­fec­tion­ately known as “Lit­tle Corn.”

“It was an im­promptu thing, and I’m sure the Army turned a blind eye un­til I moved off the base to an apart­ment,” Ran­som said. “When Lit­tle Corn would step out­side my room, he would have to an­nounce his pres­ence by shout­ing, ‘Man on the floor, man on the floor!’ The women loved him.”

In 1979, with her three­year hitch com­pleted, Ran­som re­turned to Buf­falo and re­sumed her ed­u­ca­tion un­der the GI Bill at Buf­falo State Col­lege.

She earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in African Amer­i­can stud­ies and a mas­ter’s de­gree in mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary stud­ies and was ready to wres­tle with life – lit­er­ally.

“I saw a clas­si­fied ad seek­ing women to train for pro­fes­sional wrestling. I was get­ting a lit­tle hefty and thought this would be a way to ex­er­cise and, well, make ex­tra money for my chil­dren,” said Ran­som, who now had three chil­dren.

Paid a few hun­dred dol­lars for each match, she said she worked for a Cana­dian out­fit, which in­cluded a wrestling bear who would swat down fans brave enough to try and wres­tle the crea­ture.

“I learned how to wres­tle on the road,” said Ran­som, whose ca­reer took her as far away as Malaysia on a wrestling tour. “When I’d lose, there would be a grudge match, and I’d ei­ther win or it would be a tie.”

She worked as a pro­fes­sional wrestler un­til 1990 and at the same time held jobs in so­cial work.

“After a wrestling match, I’d go back and be this lov­ing sup­port­ive per­son in the com­mu­nity help­ing moth­ers of pre­mature ba­bies,” Ran­som said. “I also worked with the men­tally ill as a case man­ager.”

At home, she took in fos­ter chil­dren.

“Over eight years, I was a fos­ter mom to 14 chil­dren and I loved it,” she said.

But her time in the mil­i­tary re­mained close to her heart and she be­came ac­tive in vet­eran or­ga­ni­za­tions.

At one point, Ran­som si­mul­ta­ne­ously served as the com­man­der of the Jesse Clip­per Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 430 and pres­i­dent of the Ben­nett Wells Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 1780.

Then in 2011, she re­ceived up­set­ting news. Her mil­i­tary ser­vice did not qual­ify her to be an Amer­i­can Le­gion mem­ber.

Dev­as­tated but not de­feated, Ran­som said no one could take away the fact that she was still “com­man­der ma­te­rial.”

A year later, she es­tab­lished the Johnetta R. Cole AMVETS Post 24 in Buf­falo.

AMVETS, she ex­plained, ac­cepts all ac­tive duty mem­bers of the mil­i­tary and those who were honor­ably dis­charged. There are about 30 mem­bers of the Cole Post and they fre­quently per­form pub­lic ser­vices, rang­ing from dec­o­rat­ing the graves of vet­er­ans to vis­it­ing hos­pi­tal­ized vets.

And as its com­man­der, Ran­som says she is al­ways ral­ly­ing her troops by lav­ish­ing them with praise for their good deeds.

“I tell them all the time how proud I am of them.”

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