A third federal lawsuit was filed this week against the city of New Port Richey, this one claiming police committed civil rights abuses against a resident.
In this case, Shinikki Whiting alleges that she was wrongfully arrested, physically abused and denied medical help from New Port Richey police officer Joseph Valente on March 30, 2020. She is suing both the city and Valente.
“Officer Valente’s actions were a violation of Ms. Whiting’s constitutional rights,” Kevin Ross-Andino, lead attorney on the case, said in a news release. “Our team at éclat Law is dedicated to fighting for justice on behalf of our clients, and we will not stand by while law enforcement officers abuse their power.”
The case is the third filed by the law firm against New Port Richey and its officers this year, “raising alarm about the city’s conduct and practices, and emphasizing the urgent need for comprehensive reform and accountability measures within the New Port Richey Police Department,” the release said.
The complaint recounts an incident in which police were called to an apartment complex in the city. Whiting was walking to her mailbox when she saw an emergency medical technician and police in her complex, according to the complaint. When she asked a neighbor what had happened, he said his girlfriend had a medical emergency.
She asked permission to hug the neighbor who was ill, and it was granted by the emergency medical technician. But Valente “yanked her arm off and pushed her” nearly causing her to fall into a wall. She asked him why he had done that and for his name and badge number, but he did not respond. Whiting started to record a video on her cellphone.
According to the complaint, Valente then walked over to her, told her she was under arrest, “slammed her to the ground” took her phone and threw it.
The lawsuit states Whiting was denied medical attention and left handcuffed in a holding cell for more than two-and-a-half hours without the periodic checks required while she was in custody. She was later released and examined at a hospital and found to have several injuries, including bruises and an injury to her face.
“The egregious violations of protocol were affirmed in an administrative review by the New Port Richey Police Department, which concluded Officer Valente had violated multiple city regulations,” according to the news release.
The charges against Whiting were dropped. Neither New Port Richey City Manager Debbie Manns nor City Attorney Tim Driscoll returned phone calls seeking comment.
The city is still facing two unrelated federal cases also involving alleged civil rights violations.
In September, city property owner Michelle Wojciechowski filed a complaint against New Port Richey and several city officials. She claimed that they cited her with numerous code violations, then broke into her house to conduct an illegal search.
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Wojciechowski’s eight-count lawsuit alleges violations of civil rights, trespassing and retaliation, and is seeking $1 million in damages and preventative measures against future retaliation.
In April, Marlowe Jones, a Pasco County man charged with and acquitted of battery on a police officer during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in 2020, filed a 42-page federal lawsuit against the city of New Port Richey. The lawsuit, which also names the former police chief, the mayor and other city officials, is seeking $2 million in damages.
The lawsuits are pending.