Hector Santiago intends to sue the City of Yonkers over the claim his civil rights were violated last year during a City Council meeting on term limits. Santiago is a Human Rights Commissioner for the City and also the founder of the Stop and Shake program which aims to bring police and their communities closer together.
The City of Yonkers proposed a change to their charter to extend term limits in November 2022. Spurring this change was the current mayor, Mike Spano, who was at the end of his third and final term. This change would increase the allowed terms from three to four. Many in the community protested this change. During the final City Council meeting, residents and council members became highly animated and emotional. After a tense exchange between Majority Leader Tasha Diaz and a constituent, Hector Santiago was forcibly escorted by a Yonkers Police officer out of the chambers. YPD has since stated that Santiago was removed for being verbally disruptive and yelling expletives. When Santiago left the chamber – with his arm in a sling and recovering from recent rotator cuff surgery – a physical altercation occurred which resulted in Santiago being struck and thrown to the floor in the hallway preceding the council chambers.
Santiago was arrested and remained in jail for almost a full day. He has since had 7 court dates related to this incident. Part of this excess has resulted from certain judges and even the Westchester District Attorney recusing themselves from this case. This latter recusal may be to avoid the appearance of any unfairness as Santiago campaigned for the Westchester DA, Mimi Rocah. Ultimately, the Orange County DA, David Hoovler, has been tasked with handling this matter. And Hoovler is pursuing disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges against Santiago vigorously in court.
In contrast to the treatment Santiago has faced, the officer who struck Santiago may go un-investigated and undisciplined. No public statement from the Westchester DA or YPD has yet been released about an arrest, charges, suspension, or even investigation of this officer for striking a citizen.
The potential lawsuit
While Santiago’s criminal case is still underway, he secured separate counsel for civil litigation. Leo Glickman is representing Santiago and he has filed notice of claim with the City of Yonkers. This all but assures that the city will be served with a civil suit soon after the finalization of the criminal case.
Speaking with Glickman he stated that, “the purpose of lawsuit is for the Yonkers Police Department to reform its practices and training to ensure the chances of this happening again are reduced.”
Depending upon the verdicts in the criminal case, Santiago may sue for false arrest and malicious prosecution. And regardless of the verdicts, Santiago will likely seek relief over the use of excessive force. The relief sought would include compensatory damages to cover the physical injuries and distress incurred by Santiago as a result of the assault. Furthermore, an apology from the YPD and a full investigation into the officer will be requested. And on that, Glickman concluded that the officer was “caught on video committing a crime. And he should have been investigated and prosecuted.”
Hector Santiago’s next court date is scheduled for February 14th.