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Ex-Football Coach Sues City, Officer Over Police Encounter

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Copyright 2017 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
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Palm Beach Post (Florida)

 

A former volunteer youth football coach is suing the city and a police officer, claiming that the officer pointed a gun at his face and arrested him without a reason four years ago, and damaged the coach's dialysis port in the process.

Bennie Robinson says he and a friend were driving two players home after an East Boynton Wildcats football practice on Aug. 11, 2013. When they pulled into a driveway, two officers pulled in behind them and demanded the adults get out of the car.

When Robinson challenged the way the officers were treating his friend, the driver, Robinson said Officer Justin Harris retaliated, threatening him with a gun and then arresting him. In the process, the medical device was broken. The lawsuit, filed in September, seeks more than $15,000 from the city and Harris, who is no longer with the Boynton Beach Police Department.

Robinson's attorney, Hugh Koerner, declined to comment Monday.

Police Chief Jeffrey Katz is on vacation and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is scheduled for mediation Aug. 9, according to court records. If they can't reach an agreement, the case would go to trial in February.

It's not clear why the police cruiser, emergency lights flashing, approached the Dodge Charger driven by Shayla Valentine. The suit contends Valentine had not broken any traffic laws.

Harris' partner told Valentine to get out of the car and she did, but asked why she was being questioned.

Robinson says the officer then became "verbally aggressive." When Robinson asked why the officer was speaking to Valentine that way, Harris came to Robinson's window, ordered him to get out of the car and put his hands on the roof. Robinson says the officer pointed a gun at his face.

The lawsuit claims Harris yelled that Robinson should be shot in his "(expletive) head."

Harris arrested Robinson on a charge of obstruction of justice -- a charge the State Attorney's Office later dropped -- and while doing so damaged the man's dialysis port. The lawsuit does not detail the damages.

"As a direct and proximate result of the acts described above ... (Robinson) has suffered grievously, has been brought into public scandal, and with great humiliation, mental suffering, and damaged reputation," according to the lawsuit.

aseltzer@pbpost.com Twitter: @alexseltzer

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