Law Enforcement Rushes To Judgment

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The three unidentified Garden City Police officers at the scene of the Western Beef Ronald Lanier incident (Photos courtesy of Frederick Brewington Law Offices)

Notice of claim filed against police department

On Nov. 30, Ronald Lanier was a victim of mistaken identity when Garden City police officers approached him at Mineola’s Western Beef from behind and allegedly pushed him to the ground and handcuffed him in the belief that he was a shoplifter they were pursuing.

At a subsequent Dec. 2 press conference, the retired Nassau County corrections officer and military veteran shared that, “After I identified myself as a former officer, they refused to believe me or even give me the chance to prove this fact. The officers were completely out of control, brutal and unreasonable and I told them they had the wrong one and they laughed.”

Lanier added, “As I shopped in the community where me and my family reside, I was stripped of my service, stripped of my humanity and stripped of my dignity. While I know the work of my brother officers is not easy, there is a difference from doing your job and throwing all reason and decency to the wind.”

The alleged perpetrator, 49-year-old Rosedale resident Stephen Wilson was later arrested in the supermarket for trying to steal a pair of designer handbags from the Garden City Lord & Taylor location.

Ronald Lanier at Winthrop-University Hospital after the Western Beef incident
Ronald Lanier at Winthrop-University Hospital after the Western Beef incident

Since the press conference, African-American law enforcement organizations marched from Western Beef to Garden City Police Department headquarters and held rallies outside on Dec. 4 and 7. Members of the Long Island chapter of Blacks in Law Enforcement in America, the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, the Nassau Corrections Association and the Nassau Sheriff Guardians were among those at the rallies.

Lanier’s legal representative is attorney Frederick Brewington, who has filed a notice of claim for violations and civil rights abuses by the Village of Garden City Police Department and for their alleged false arrest, racial discrimination, verbal and physical abuse.

Brewington also pointed out that Lanier, ‘Stated that these individuals need to be stripped of their badges and they need to lose their employment.”

According to legal documents, “…Lanier needed and continues to need medical attention for injury to his neck, ribs, head and other body parts that he received at the hands of said police officers. Mr. Lanier further suffered and continues to suffer psychological injuries as a result of said injury.”

Brewington has also filed a New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request seeking the names of the officers that responded to this call that involved Lanier’s arrest and detention. A certified mail return receipt request was also sent to Western Beef looking for evidence to be provided that includes the in-store video tape of the incident, along with any information, records, photo and/or statements. So far, Brewington’s office has not received any response to his inquiries.

“The Garden City Police Department has failed to respond. We’ve not heard from [Western Beef], but the larger part of that is not only the request, but the preservation [of the recordings],” Brewington explained. “We understand that at least a copy of whatever they have is in the possession of the Garden City Police Department. But they’ve not responded to us. Hopefully, they won’t pick a fight; but if they do, then we’ll do that.”

When asked if he felt poor police training was why this incident happened, Brewington felt the problems ran much deeper.

“I don’t know that it’s training. I think there’s a culture that’s allowed to exist that made these officers feel free to engage in this type of policing action. It’s when a culture is allowed to exist within a police department and it kind of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where everyone thinks it’s okay. And if the supervisors are not catching [because] they want to support their guys, by supporting their guys, they are creating this culture of acceptance,” Brewington said. “This actual individual taunted Mr. Lanier, even after the sergeant was saying to cut him loose, this is not the guy. [That aforementioned officer] was still taunting Mr. Lanier—making faces and mouthing words. I think there’s a need for them to do a psychological evaluation of that individual and perhaps all the other police officers that think this is okay and acceptable.”

As of press time, the Garden City Police Department failed to respond to a request for comment.

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In addition to being editor of Hicksville News and Massapequa Observer, Dave Gil de Rubio is a regular contributor to Long Island Weekly, specializing in music and sports features. He has won several awards for writing from Press Club of Long Island (PCLI).

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