Police brutality lawsuit from 2008 headed to trial

What was supposed to be a romantic holiday getaway for a Virginia couple in 2008 has turned into a lengthy legal battle with the city of South Bend.

South Bend attorney Stanley Wruble says Clifford Rosen was the victim of police brutality when he and his wife traveled through town on an Amtrak train.

Shortly after the 2008 incident, the couple filed suit against the three officers involved – Jason King, Christopher Slager and Andrew Witt – and the city.

The city asked a district judge to dismiss the lawsuit, but the request was denied. The case is expected to go to trial soon.

According to court documents, on New Year’s Eve in 2008, Clifford and Alice were taking an Amtrak train from Chicago to Washington, D.C.

The train departed late, which pushed back the time dinner would be served – a matter of concern to Clifford.

“Mr. Rosen is a Parkinson’s patient and, because of that, he takes medication,” Wruble said. “He needs to take that medication with meals. And, because of that, he inquired about the timing of the meal. And, I imagine he asked several folks when that was. He was probably pestering them at some point.”

Court documents claim an Amtrak employee witnessed Clifford trying to “physically intimidate” another worker, so the employee asked Clifford to return to his sleeper car.

When Clifford refused, the employee contacted police in South Bend – the nearest Amtrack stop – and requested they come remove an unruly passenger from the train.

“I think that was clearly an overreaction on Amtrak’s part,” Wruble said.

Shortly after King, Slager and Witt arrived, court documents say Clifford grasped the bed in his sleeper car for support, which officers interpreted as a threat.

So, they demanded he put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed, but Clifford didn’t move.

“Because of a childhood injury to his shoulder, he could not put his arm behind his back,” Wruble said. “The officers took Mr. Rosen down to the ground, they kicked him in the back, and they tasered him three times.”

The incident left the 71-year-old Parkinson’s patient with bruises all over his body and two torn ligaments in his arm.

Clifford was taken to the St. Joseph County Jail on charges of public intoxication and disorderly conduct, but he blew a 0.00.

All charges against Clifford were dropped.

“It’s a reaction of shock and disappointment,” Wruble said of the incident. “There are plenty of good officers, unfortunately the actions of few can sully the name of many.”

Nearly four years later, the couple hopes legal justice will be delivered soon.

And, Wruble says it’s up to South Bend leaders to make sure another case like the Rosens’ doesn’t land on his desk.

“It’s my hope with the new mayor and the new police chief, something can be done to make sure this never happens again.”

One of the officers named in the suit no longer works for the department.

Just a couple months after the incident, dash cam video caught King using unnecessary force on a suspect in a high-speed chase.

Former Police Chief Darryl Boykins told NewsCenter 16 at the time that King also falsified the police report by writing up a different version of what happened.

King was initially suspended for 30 days without pay before the department let him go.

The city of South Bend couldn't be reached for comment.

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