Two lawsuits have been filed accusing Metro Transit Police officers of physically abusing teenagers in separate incidents. In both cases, the children involved were 14 years old, and both kids are very slight in their builds.
(Federal court rules do not permit minors' names in civil litigation, so this story will refer to them the way they are identified in the court documents: initials.)
J.H.'s incident happened at the Minnesota Avenue Metro and bus stop nearly a year ago. J.H. says he was coming home from school, when another teen attacked him. Metro transit police broke up the subsequent fight, but J.H. says a Metro cop then attacked him from the rear.
"She had her right hand holding my arm like this" explained J.H. at a news conference at the office of the ACLU of the Nation's Capital, holding his hand behind his back. "And [she] had her left hand, like, around my neck. Sorta like a choke-hold."
J.H. says in the complaint he was subsequently dragged closer to a bus shelter, and punched five to seven times by one officer, then punched three times by another cop, then was pepper sprayed.
The slim 14-year-old boy was arrested, but, after hearing testimony from both sides, a juvenile court judge dismissed the charges.
A.K., also 14, on January 27th, was taken by police off an inbound train at the Stadium-Armory station. According the the lawsuit, a transit police officer ordered A.K. to sit on the station platform, which she initially didn't want to do because it was dirty.
The situation eventually deteriorated and, according to the complaint, the police officer struck the girl with a closed fist, knocking her to the platform. The police officer cuffed her, and marched her upstairs to the outside bus shelters.
A.K. claims in her suit that a Metro Transit Police officer "struck her head against the side of the bus shelter several times", and she was then punched four times in the face.
A.K.'s mother, Stacy Winslow, says therapists fear some of the damage my by long-term. According to Winslow, a physical therapist has told her the police officer, "mess[ed] up some nerves in her as far as her neck movement, her arms, her hands was cold. Her feets was cold the first night when she came home. And she's been having headaches every day. [She] never had a headache before."
Arthur Spitzer of the ACLU says his agency and the families want Metro to provide better training for its police officers.
A Metro police report in A.K.'s case says the girl was "combative" and claims she punched, kicked, and bit officers at various times during the incident.
Metro declined to comment specifically on the lawsuits, but a spokesman said the transit agency takes "seriously" complaints about police conduct. Dan Stessel also said an internal review would be initiated because of the allegations.