Over two years after New Haven police raided the Elevate Lounge nightclub on College Street, Jordan Jefferson ’13, who was Tasered during the raid, is suing the city and seven police officers who were involved.
Jefferson, a 6-foot-3-inch, 225-pound tight end for the Yale football team, claims that he sustained serious and long-lasting injuries after being Tasered and assaulted during the raid in October 2010. Jefferson filed suit against the city and police officers this week in New Haven Superior Court on grounds of civil rights violations, supervisory liability, negligent assault, assault and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Attorney William Dow confirmed with the News Thursday night that he will represent Jefferson in his suit against the city and seven police officers.
“If cooler heads had prevailed, none of this would have occurred,” Jefferson attorney William Dow told the New Haven Register. “It was a sanctioned event that was intruded upon without sufficient cause or forethought.”
Jefferson declined to comment on the suit to the News.
According to the complaint, Jefferson’s injuries included electrical shock and puncture wounds, a concussion, postconcussive syndrome, headaches, blurred vision, cognitive difficulties and depression, among others.
Named in the complaint are seven members of the New Haven police, three of whom acted in supervisory roles during the raid, including then-NHPD Chief Frank Limon. The complaint alleges that five of the officers “were personally involved in the deprivation of [Jefferson’s] constitutional rights” and that the three supervising officers, including Limon, “acted with gross negligence.”
The raid, which broke up Morse-Stiles Screw in the early morning of Oct. 2, 2010, came as part of a New Haven Police Department crackdown on bars and clubs called “Operation Nightlife” in the wake of a shoot-out between club-goers and police officers the previous month. Police, wearing bulletproof vests and masks and carrying rifles, entered the club to check identification, ordering students to “not say a word.” Marty Evans ’11 said at the time that as students were told to sit on the ground, Jefferson struggled with police who attempted to handcuff him. Shortly afterward, Jefferson was Tasered and hit by police.
“I did see [the police officers] absolutely slamming on him,” Danny Zelaya ’13 told the News at the time. “I could see the electricity from the Taser.”
Witnesses at the nightclub told the News at the time that officers Tasered Jefferson at least five times and punched and kicked him repeatedly. An officer at the scene turned to the student crowd and shouted “Anybody else?” and another asked “Who’s next?” according to students who were present.
Following the raid, an NHPD internal affairs investigation cleared the police department of wrongdoing but nevertheless criticized the officers’ actions. Sgt. John Wolcheski wrote in the report after the raid that officers did not use execessive force in Jefferson’s arrest, but that he was “actively resisting and fighting the officers.”
Limon, who placed much of the blame on former Assistant Chief Ariel Melendez, said that the incident resulted from “poor planning, poor decision and poor leadership.”
Jefferson was charged on accounts of assaulting a police officer, inciting a riot, interfering with police and disorderly conduct and taken into custody, for which a $25,000 bond was set, according to the complaint. The charges were dropped last year.
Limon left his post as NHPD Chief in October 2011, after which he was replaced by current Chief Dean Esserman the same month.