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Meyersdale settles lawsuit

August 9, 2018

Court documents obtained by the Daily American reveal that Meyersdale Borough paid a resident more than $60,000 through an insurance provider for alleged excessive force by two police officers.

In a letter from attorney Susan Williams, of Williams Law Offices in Greensburg, dated June 11, Williams claims that Meyersdale police Officers Mark Kasterko and Neil Berkley used excessive force March 14, 2017, on resident Roger Weimer, Beachley Street, when delivering a message that his ex-wife had died.

“Defendant Berkley abruptly and callously informed Mr. Weimer that his ex-wife had committed suicide and that Mr. Weimer needed to call the coroner to receive additional information,” Williams wrote in the letter. “Why the coroner would deem it appropriate to notify Mr. Weimer of his ex-wife’s death, as he was not her next of kin, is unclear. Mr. Weimer immediately was frozen in a state of shock.”

The letter goes on to allege that after Weimer spoke with an assistant Cambria County coroner, the officers asked him if he had any guns in his house.

When he responded that there was a gun in his bedroom, the officers tackled him and placed him in handcuffs, according to the letter.

“At no time did Mr. Weimer make any movement towards the bedroom nor did he make any statements about harming himself or harming others,” the letter states.

The letter states that Weimer was then transported to Somerset Hospital and was held against his will after signing a voluntary commitment that he believed he had no other choice but to sign. The letter requests a settlement of $250,000.

A filing in federal court also alleges abuse, which is largely denied in another filing. The officers’ recollections of that day also vary from Williams’ account.

In a police report filed by Kasterko on May 8, the officer wrote that he was requested to deliver the news because it was believed Weimer would take it poorly.

He wrote that at about 8:45 p.m. he and Berkley went to Weimer’s residence and were invited into the home. He wrote that he then told Weimer of his ex-wife’s death.

“At that point Mr. Weimer broke down and began to sob asking repeatedly what happened,” he wrote, adding that he then dialed the coroner’s office and handed Weimer the phone. “Weimer was completely oblivious to what was being said at this time and continued to sob and said ‘I can’t even talk to you right now’ and handed me the phone.”

The officer wrote that Weimer then began pacing, blaming himself for the death and stating that he was going to get his gun and shoot himself. Weimer then pushed Berkley before he “bull rushed” the officer, causing Berkley to take him to the ground and sit on his back, according to Kasterko’s account.

The officers then restrained Weimer using four sets of handcuffs, sat him up and waited for an ambulance to arrive for a hospital transport.

“During this time Mr. Weimer was cooperative but continued to make comments about harming himself,” Kasterko wrote, adding that a handgun was found in plain view in Weimer’s bedroom.

He wrote that while waiting for the ambulance and a relative, Weimer berated the officers asking why they were treating him like a criminal. He was transported to Somerset Hospital and was involuntarily committed, he wrote.

In a separate police report also dated May 8, Berkley’s account of the day is similar to Kasterko’s.

In a handwritten settlement agreement dated June 12 and signed by Weimer, Williams and an attorney for the officers and the borough, it was agreed that the borough’s insurance provider, EMC Insurance, would pay Weimer $60,000 plus additional legal fees.

In the unofficial borough council meeting minutes for July 10, the council voted to accept the settlement agreement.

After supplying the Daily American with the court documents that were obtained via a Right-to-Know request Wednesday, borough solicitor Marc Valentine said in an email that he would answer additional questions. By press deadline, Valentine had not responded to an email requesting additional information.

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