Shepherdstown Police charged with brutality

By John O'Brien | Jun 8, 2006

CHARLES TOWN - A Shepherdstown woman says the Shepherdstown Police Department unlawfully arrested her while using excessive force in a recently filed lawsuit.

Molly Humphreys Aguilar filed the lawsuit May 25 in Jefferson Circuit Court against the Shepherdstown Police Department and employees Christopher Roper, Scott Reagan and Chief of Police Charles Cole.

Aguilar says the incident occurred Sept. 25, 2004, after she and two friends ate dinner at the Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant.

As she walked down Princess St., Aguilar says she noticed Roper questioning a woman during an apparent traffic stop, and her friend remarked to her that the woman was not required to take a field sobriety test.

"Defendant Roper apparently heard Ms. (Mary) Aravanis' comment and became very agitated and aggressive," the complaint says. "He repeatedly and angrily shouted at the three women, "Are you talking to me?" in an aggressive and confrontational manner."

Aguilar says Roper left the woman unattended and Reagan joined him in confronting the three women.

Aguilar also alleges that the two officers ordered Aravanis not to speak and leave the sidewalk and when she questioned why, she was placed under arrest.

"In a lawful and peaceful manner, Plaintiff Aguilar then asked Defendant Roper why Ms. Aravanis was being arrested," the complaint says. "Suddenly and without warning, Defendants Roper and Reagan responded to Plaintiff Aguilar's question by lunging at her and causing the back of her head to violently hit a car, almost knocking her out, then body-slamming her face down to the sidewalk and kneeling on her, one officer on her head, the other officer on her back.

"Defendant Roper then screamed at Ms. (Karen) Semachko that she had two seconds to leave the sidewalk or that she would get the same thing her friends got. Suddenly and without warning, Defendant Roper slammed Ms. Semachko to the ground and handcuffed her."

Aguilar says she was taken from the scene in an ambulance before being sent to Eastern Regional Jail.

Aguilar charges the defendants with unlawful arrest, excessive force, unlawful retaliation, battery, outrage, supervisory liability against Cole and respondeat superior for the responsibility of the police department.

She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Gregory Bailey of Shepherdstown law firm Arnold, Cesare and Bailey is the plaintiff's attorney.

Judge Thomas Steptoe Jr. has been assigned the case.

Jefferson Circuit Court case number 06-C-187

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