A Watertown woman is suing the Lake Placid Police Department claiming she was unlawfully detained and assaulted by two of its officers.
Taryn M. Stanfa, 21, of 533 Davidson St., filed state Supreme Court action Thursday at the Jefferson County clerk’s office against the village of Lake Placid, its Police Department, Officers James D. Staats and Matthew J. Braunius and Chief William P. Moore. A notice of claim is required as a precursor to a lawsuit against a public agency or municipality.
According to the lawsuit, Miss Stanfa went to the Hannaford grocery store on the outskirts of the village about 5 a.m. Jan. 21. She claims that she was not committing any crime, yet was detained by Mr. Staats and Mr. Braunius without probable cause. She maintains that her driver’s license and car and home keys were confiscated, leaving her unable to leave the area.
She further alleges that Mr. Staats pushed her against her vehicle, threw her to the ground and tackled her, then placed her in handcuffs “to such a severe degree to cause substantial pain and personal injuries.” She then was placed in the back of a patrol car, according to the notice of claim. She claims Mr. Staats verbally threatened her and said he would arrest her “if he ever saw her in the village of Lake Placid again,” it is alleged in the notice.
Miss Stanfa’s attorney, Matthew D. Norfolk, Lake Placid, said she was attending North Country Community College at Saranac Lake at the time of the incident. Mr. Norfolk said she and a friend had gone to the grocery store and found lights on. They approached the store, but were told by an employee that the business was not yet open. He said that upon returning to her vehicle she could not find her keys. As she looked for the keys, police arrived in response to a call from the store employee expressing concern about the vehicle in the parking lot.
Mr. Norfolk said Miss Stanfa was cooperative with police until they asked to search her vehicle. He said it was at that point that the situation escalated and Miss Stanfa allegedly was detained, although she was not charged with a crime.
“No charges were ever filed against Miss Stanfa or her friend — ever,” Mr. Norfolk said.
The suit contains several causes of action, including unlawful invasion of privacy, unlawful search of a person and property, unlawful seizure of property, false arrest, unlawful imprisonment and assault, among other causes.
The suit does not specify an amount being sought in damages, but Mr. Norfolk said he will be seeking damages for physical as well as emotional injuries. He said Miss Stanfa received medical treatment for bruised ribs and other swelling.
“One of her goals in this is to not have it happen again,” Mr. Norfolk said.
He said he requested an investigation into the matter earlier this year, which resulted in no disciplinary action by Chief Moore against either of the officers allegedly involved, both of whom remain on duty. Chief Moore could not be reached for comment Thursday.