HARRISBURG- A Canadian citizen who was traveling through Pennsylvania last summer to attend a funeral in Maryland filed a federal lawsuit today against a Pennsylvania State Police trooper over a traffic stop in Centre County that resulted in the man being beaten, jailed for three days, and then released after all charges were withdrawn.
In his complaint, Nana Kyeame, who is a native of Ghana, claims that PSP Trooper Nicholas Buchheit demanded cash at the scene to pay for a speeding violation, and when Kyeame told him that he did not have the money on-hand, Buchheit pulled him from his car and assaulted him.
"The abuse of power in this case is astounding," said Vic Walczak, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. "People should reasonably expect that they can travel through Pennsylvania without police demanding money, assaulting them, and then tossing them in jail for three days."
Kyeame is also represented by Valerie Burch of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and Spero Lappas of the Harrisburg firm Serratelli Schiffman Brown and Calhoon.
According to the suit, on July 2, 2006, Kyeame and his wife were returning home to Brampton, Ontario, after attending a funeral in Maryland and were stopped by Buchheit for speeding near State College. When Buchheit demanded cash at the scene and Kyeame could not produce it, Kyeame asked if the trooper would accept a check or a credit card. Buchheit refused.
Once it became clear that Kyeame could not give cash on the spot, Buchheit pulled him from his vehicle, handcuffed one arm, and twisted his other arm "in a fashion which was intended to and which did cause...substantial pain." Buchheit then threw Kyeame to the ground and continued assaulting him.
Kyeame also states in the suit that, after Buchheit placed him in the trooper's car, Buchheit called him a "Canadian nigger" and told him to "pray very hard" that the situation would not turn "ugly."
"I never felt like that before," Kyeame said. "It was the worst thing that ever happened to me.
"I lost a great deal of respect for the police. Now I'm scared of them."
Kyeame was charged with a speeding violation and resisting arrest and then spent three days in Centre County Prison. He was released on July 5 when all charges were dropped.
The complaint asks for compensatory and punitive damages for Kyeame. The suit was filed today in the federal Middle District Court in Harrisburg.