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Woman Who Skipped Subway Fare Plans To Sue Over Strip-Search

January 18, 1995

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Gretchen Vinson was shocked when she was taken into a men’s room at a police station and strip-searched. All she’d done was get caught on a subway train without paying the $1.10 fare.

``I kept saying, `I can’t believe this is happening. Why do I have to be strip-searched?‴ Ms. Vinson told The Buffalo News. ``I was crying and I was really upset.″

Ms. Vinson, 33, has filed a federal court notice that she intends to sue Buffalo over the search last Sept. 15.

Her attorney, Glenn Murray, said Tuesday that a male officer walked in while Ms. Vinson was naked, and three others looked in while she was getting dressed.

``She was terrified and humiliated,″ Murray said. He plans to seek $900,000 in compensatory damages.

Lt. Robert Penders, who supervises the central booking bureau, said the transit authority officer who arrested Ms. Vinson requested the strip-search because he wanted to check for drugs.

The officer, Jeffrey Burton, said he asked police only to frisk Ms. Vinson.

The search was performed by a female detective. Penders said officers looked into the men’s room because Vinson was shouting. Future searches of female suspects will be done in the women’s room, he said.

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