A D.C. man is suing U.S. Park Police officers for an arrest he claims involved excessive force.
The civil suit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court on behalf of Jonathon B. McKinney, 31, involves an incident on July 8 near the entrance of Battery Kemble Park on MacArthur Boulevard in the Palisades neighborhood of Northwest.
McKinney is a professional dog walker in Palisades where he lives; he said before July, he’d never been arrested. He described the incident as completely unprovoked, beginning with him repeatedly rebuffing a man in a T-shirt and shorts who was trying to talk with him inside the entrance area of Battery Kemble Park.
“I just simply respond, you know, ‘Don’t talk to me,'” McKinney recalled telling the stranger.
McKinney said the man never identified himself as law enforcement.
Exiting the park to walk home, McKinney said his arrest by that man and uniformed U.S. Park Police officers involved him being stunned with a Taser three times, sat upon, and detained in a car with windows up on an 82-degree day.
“It was very hot, and I felt like I was suffocating,” he said.
Initially taken to Sibley Hospital where the metal taser prongs were removed, McKinney said police held him overnight in a cell, where he believes he contracted COVID-19. He then was released with no explanation or charges, McKinney said.
Asked why he ran away from police who ended up stunning him with the Taser in the back, McKinney explained that when U.S. Park Police officers in a squad car jumped out and grabbed him, his phone went flying into the middle of the road. When he went after it, they began chasing him and he ran.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and damages in excess of $1 million.
“I’m just hoping for accountability and for professional behavior,” McKinney said. “And for people to be able to move freely in their communities without threat of being profiled…So I’m just looking for justice.”
Whatever the outcome, his attorney said McKinney now has a record of three charges, including assault on a police officer, that were not pursued.
“He was taken to the United States Park Police station for fingerprinting; subsequently taken to Capitol Hill police holding cell where he was formally booked, which means photographed. And that process means that a Black male who had never been arrested is now in the criminal justice computer system having been arrested,” attorney Donald M. Temple said.
Temple is calling for a federal investigation of the claims that include false arrest, imprisonment, use of excessive force, and assault and battery.
“How many times do young Black men get arrested, no-papered, and have their personal dignity, reputations, physical security and civil rights violated?” Temple asked.
A spokesman for the U.S. Park Police said the agency takes all allegations of misconduct seriously.
“We cannot comment on litigation, but will make incident information available as soon as we are able,” the spokesman said.