Woman Sues Yonkers Police Over Assault As She Protected Her Daughter

Yonkers mother, Raquel Santos, claims police assaulted her during an incident in March 2023, when an officer slammed her to the pavement as she was protecting her daughter from a gang assault.

To her daughter’s rescue

After school on Friday March 17, 2023, Raquel Santos received a phone call that her 15-year-old daughter, “J.A.”, faced danger at the McDonald’s on South Broadway. Santos then phoned J.A.; instructing her to wait inside of the McDonald’s and hide from the gang of her would-be attackers. When Santos arrived to escort her daughter from the premises, both were attacked by the large gang lying in wait. As the assailants pulled hair and thew punches at J.A.’s face, Santos attempted to protect her daughter. She spread her arms outward to create a safe distance and deter the attack.

Yonkers Police then arrived on the scene. Officers attempted to secure the situation and grabbed Santos. By her account, an officer “lifted her off the ground and threw her forcefully to the ground.” This bodyslam to the pavement left Santos unconscious and bleeding from her head. Her limp hands were then cuffed by police before an ambulance arrived to rush her to St. Joseph’s hospital. Doctors mended Santos’ head wound with two staples before she ultimately filed a police report about the incident from her hospital bed.

The teenage J.A. was also handcuffed but only suffered minor injuries from the encounter. Neither her nor her mother were charged with any crime.

A mother fights back

Shortly after her discharge from hospital, Santos sought legal representation and filed Notice of Claim with the City of Yonkers. This clearly signaled her intent to sue over her family’s ordeal. She completed the mandatory 50-H hearing with Corporation Counsel on June 21. Then, on October 10, formally filed her lawsuit in Westchester County Supreme Court.

In the 14-page filing, Raquel Santos demands a jury trial against the City of Yonkers, YPD Sergeant Patrick Breen, and ten other unnamed officers. The enumerated causes of action read as a familiar list to most police excessive force complaints. They include: assault and battery, violation of due process, unlawful search and seizure, deprivation of liberty, as well as accusations of negligence of her safety, failure to intervene, and negligent training on the part of the YPD. While the lawsuit seeks monetary damages for the physical and mental injuries to both her and her daughter, no exact figures appear stated in the lawsuit. Given the extent of the injuries, a settlement upwards of six figures seems likely.

Defendants […] engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct, conduct utterly intolerable in a civilized community, […] forcing mother and daughter to observe the extreme and horrific assault and battery of the other.

Raquel Santos v City of Yonkers

The City answers

The City of Yonkers, through its own filing, requests for the court to dismiss the lawsuit. On each of Santos’ claims, the City either denies their validity outright, or justifies any and all actions taken by its police force. In summary, it is the government’s belief that, “injuries and damages were caused in whole or in part or were contributed to by the culpable conduct and want of care on the part of the plaintiffs.” So, while Raquel Santos never faced criminal charges, her actions warranted the physical restraint and resulting injuries that occurred.

Furthermore, the City asserts that the doctrine of qualified immunity protects Sgt. Patrick Breen. This often-used defense separates the individual from their conduct as an officer. While not absolute, Sgt. Breen may avoid culpability even if his conduct is found to have violated YPD procedures and the civil rights of Raquel Santos.

Preparing for trial

Following the preliminary conference on January 25th, subsequent deadlines appear on the calendar for this case. For example, all parties submit to their depositions this June. Furthermore, evidence like Santos’ medical records and YPD body camera footage could be shared between the parties by the fall. In the absence of bodycam footage, the court nevertheless possesses a short video recorded by someone present during the incident. Lastly, Santos’ attorney also requested any disciplinary records potentially showing prior excessive force complaints lodged against Sgt. Patrick Breen.

We spoke with attorney for the Raquel Santos, Omar Russo of Shulman-Hill, PLLC, about their case against the City.

My client is a mother and rushed in a moment of crisis to protect her 15-year-old daughter. She committed no crime, no wrongdoing, and did not justify the officers’ attack in any way. She stands by the allegations within the complaint. We are confident that the evidence and her injuries speak for themselves.

We made requests for comments to the City of Yonkers’ Communications Director, Corporation Counsel, and YPD Public Information Officer on this case. Officials responded that they do not make comments on active litigation.

We are aware that the officer named in the complaint is the son of a sitting Yonkers City Council Member. However, to our knowledge, that relationship has no bearing on this case.

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