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Lawsuit: state trooper harassed man after Facebook complaint

October 11, 2018

MCKEE, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky man has filed a federal lawsuit against three state police troopers who he says came to his home and harassed him after he complained about a traffic stop on social media.

David Gabbard complained about the 2017 traffic stop on Facebook, saying he was “pulled over for no reason,” and included the hashtag ”#policeharassment.” The next day, the lawsuit alleges, the trooper who pulled him over, Scott Townsley, and two other troopers came to Gabbard’s Jackson County home.

When Gabbard went out to see why they were there, a woman who was at the home with Gabbard began recording on her phone. The lawsuit claims another trooper took the woman’s phone and turned it off and “things escalated quickly,” with Townsley slapping and pushing Gabbard, kicking his dog, and trying to incite a fight.

Gabbard said he did not want to fight with police, so “Trooper Townsley then took off his badge, took off his gun, and said, ’Fight me as a man, as a regular citizen,‴Gabbard’s attorney, James O’Toole, told WDRB.com . “And Gabbard still refused to do that.”

The officers left after seeing a camera on the property, according to the federal suit, filed last month in London, Kentucky. The suit names Townsley and the two other troopers and says Gabbard and the woman’s civil rights were violated. It says the law enforcement officers “acted with the intent to injure, vex, annoy, harass and terrorize” Gabbard and the woman.

An attorney for the three troopers, David Hoskins, declined to comment because he said he is only beginning to study the case.

A Kentucky state police spokesman did not return a call Thursday seeking comment.

In a court response to the lawsuit filed by Hoskins on Oct. 3, the troopers denied the allegations but acknowledged that they went to Gabbard’s home at the time the lawsuit states. The filing says the troopers deny that they appeared at the home “without cause or legal jurisdiction,” but the filing does not state the legal purpose. They also denied trespassing on Gabbard’s property.

The suit is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

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