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Zephyrhills sued over 1990 injury

Earl M. Wilkerson was arrested in April 1990 on a charge of driving without a valid license, a common and simple infraction usually handled by paying a small fine.

Zephyrhills police Officer Dwight Shannon Casson pulled over Wilkerson and handcuffed the man behind his back to transport him to the East Pasco Detention Center. Then, while traveling north on U.S. 301, Casson's squad car collided with a vehicle driven by Michael John Barry.

Wilkerson, 62, claims in a civil lawsuit this week in Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Court that he was thrown from the back seat into the screen between the front and back seats of the squad car.

He sustained injuries to his head and extremities, according to the lawsuit, but a more detailed description of his injuries wasn't available Tuesday.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages over $10,000 and names as defendants the city of Zephyrhills, the Zephyrhills Police Department and Barry. City Attorney Tom McAlvanah said Tuesday that he was aware Wilkerson's attorney planned to file a lawsuit, but that he hadn't seen a copy of it. He added that the suit will be handled by other attorneys, who wouldn't have received a copy yet either.

Wilkerson's attorney, Larry Hersch, did not return a telephone message Tuesday.

The lawsuit alleges that Casson was driving over the speed limit "for no reason." The suit says that Casson was "attempting to enforce the law outside of his jurisdiction with no authority."

Wilkerson's lawsuit contends that a seat belt was in the back seat but was not placed around him.

Wilkerson pleaded guilty to the charge of driving without a valid license and was ordered to pay court costs and fines, which he did.