Man sues borough, police claiming false arrest and intimidation

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By Jonathan Shugarts, Republican-American

NAUGATUCK — A Bronx, N.Y. man is suing the borough and the police department, claiming police falsely arrested and tried to intimidate him while they were investigating a shoplifting incident at Walmart.

William Santana, 63, filed the suit against Officer John T. Williams regarding Santana’s 2018 arrest.

The litigation claims that Naugatuck police were called to investigate a shoplifting in May 2018 at the store on Route 63. A store employee told police that two men used a baby carriage to steal electronics worth hundreds of dollars from the store, then bolted out the exit, tossed the carriage into a Chrysler Town and Country minivan and escaped while she tried to follow them.

Police alleged they used the van’s license plate to determine that it was owned and registered to Santana. Williams then mailed Santana a letter threatening that if he didn’t give up the names of the alleged thieves, as well as their dates of birth and copies of their IDs, he would issue a warrant for Santana’s arrest.

The suit claims Santana was not shown in the surveillance footage of the theft disclosed by prosecutors and he is decades older than the images of the suspects. The suit claims Williams “misused legal process” and “misinformed the court” in order to obtain an arrest warrant for Santana.

“In actuality, Defendant Williams knew that the images and surveillance footage from Walmart did not incriminate the plaintiff and knew that he lacked probable cause to arrest him,” the suit claims.

The suit claims Santana was eating lunch and grocery shopping in New Rochelle, N.Y., at the time of the thefts and had no knowledge of them.

Santana “was humiliated by having to wait in a holding cell for approximately 20 minutes, despite having the bond money being readily available and accessible for his immediate release,” the suit reads.

Santana was charged with sixth-degree larceny and was required to go to court. The filing claims Santana was suspended from his job without pay due to the pending charge against him. With no income, the suit claims Santana was forced to retire early and enroll in Medicare in order to pay for his medical expenses.

The charge was later dismissed after the surveillance footage was disclosed to Santana’s lawyer, the suit and court records show.

The suit filed in federal court in recent days alleges Santana was falsely imprisoned, faced malicious prosecution and suffered emotional distress as a result of his arrest.

The suit asks for an unspecified amount in punitive damages, compensation and lawyer’s fees.

Based on advice from their attorney, Naugatuck police declined to comment on the ongoing lawsuit.