CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A gay Parkersburg man says three of the city's police officers attacked him at his home, breaking his rib and calling him homosexual slurs.
Timothy Michael Mazza, 37, says police had been questioning him about a confrontation with his neighbors and he was trying to go inside his house when the three pulled him to the ground. One of the officers then grabbed him by the neck and kicked him in the ribs, both Mazza and his partner, Kevin Swearingen, said.
"He kicked me in the ribs and he said, 'Now take that, you f--ing queer,'" Mazza said.
Mazza was then booked on two counts of assault and battery on a police officer - charges that were dismissed in magistrate court.
Mazza has filed a lawsuit in Southern District of West Virginia federal court over the allegations.
He has been off work since the alleged October beating, said lawyer John Bryan, who, along with Mike Clifford, is representing Mazza.
"Both his psychologist and his treating physician kept him off work due to his physical injuries and post-traumatic stress and depression," Bryan said.
Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell and Police Chief Joe Martin dispute Mazza's claims. Newell said that if what Mazza claims is true, he should have talked to police - not to a lawyer and the news media.
Martin said there's no investigation into the incident because Mazza never filed a complaint with the department.
"We will let it work itself out through the civil action," he said.
Martin said he did not know of the allegations of gay slurs until questioned by a Gazette-Mail reporter on Friday.
The three officers Mazza says were involved in the incident - N.R. Deuley, M.W. Eichhorn and R.L. Koher - did not respond to requests for interviews through Newell and Martin.
The mayor blames the lawsuit on what he says is West Virginia's need for tort reform.
"It is very aggravating that it is being handled this way," Newell said. "I've dealt with attorneys a lot, and they are trying to get cases settled through public pressure."
'He wanted to go inside'
On Oct. 30, Mazza said, he and Swearingen had just pulled up to their house after eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant when a neighbor four houses down yelled at them to slow down when driving through the neighborhood.
Swearingen yelled back at them, and Mazza said he walked toward them to make amends.
"After [Swearingen] responded to them, I was embarrassed," he said. "I walked up the street to apologize."
Mazza said the neighbors accepted his apology and told him someone was racing up and down the neighborhood streets in a black Ford Explorer, just like the vehicle Swearingen drove them home in.
"It wasn't us," he said. "Apparently, they thought it was."
Mazza said he left his neighbors on amicable terms and went to his back porch to smoke a cigarette. He said he'd had one margarita at the restaurant and wasn't drunk.
It was while he was on the back porch that he says a police officer entered his yard and shined a light on him.
Mazza said the officer told him he needed to ask him a few questions.
"He said, 'Did you have a fight or argument with your neighbors up the street,'" Mazza said. "I said I didn't, but my partner did."
As the first officer questioned him, Mazza said, two others showed up.
Swearingen came out of the house and onto the back porch, Mazza said, and police questioned him, as well.
The three officers questioned them about speeding around the neighborhood and about the incident with the neighbors, he said.
"They just kept asking us the same questions over and over," he said. "At that point, I'd had enough. I said, 'This is ridiculous. I'm going to ask you to leave my property. We're not under arrest and the tone of your questions is really off-color.' The way they were treating us ... they kept asking us questions and cussing."
After twice asking the officers to leave, Mazza said, he told them he was going into his house to call his attorney.