Cuffed and Stunned, Pennsylvania Man Paid $225K Settlement

October 10, 2013

A western Pennsylvania man who claimed a police officer used a stun gun on him while he was handcuffed was paid $225,000 by a borough’s insurance carrier to settle a lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in July on behalf of Gary Cahill, 36, of Harwick, stemming from an encounter on Dec. 17, 2011, with Springdale officer Mark Thom.

Thom pleaded guilty in March to a criminal charge of violating Cahill’s civil rights by punching and stunning Cahill after he was handcuffed and not resisting. Thom is free on bond, awaiting sentencing before a federal judge in Pittsburgh on Oct. 22. He has since resigned.

Cahill’s lawsuit didn’t target Thom, but rather the Springdale police department and its since-retired chief, who allegedly failed to properly train or supervise Thom and another officer who was allegedly present but didn’t intervene. The borough is about 15 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, along the Allegheny River.

The settlement’s terms were released Monday by Springdale solicitor Steve Yakopec, who didn’t comment on the settlement, in which borough officials don’t acknowledge wrongdoing. Mayor Eileen Miller also declined comment.

Cahill was arrested during a traffic stop during which he was threatened with an AR-15 rifle by Thom, the lawsuit said, and was handcuffed in the back of Thom’s cruiser when the officer punched him and repeatedly shocked him with a stun gun. Cahill contends all of the charges against him – including drunken driving and resisting arrest – were false and they were all later dismissed.

Cahill’s lawsuit claims Thom had a history of violence, including a lawsuit in February 2011 that resulted in a $98,500 settlement paid in March to an Allegheny County police officer. Both officers were off-duty when Thom allegedly assaulted Raymond Hrabos after he complained that a pickup Thom was riding in was blocking a snow-plowed road.

“Hopefully, a message will be sent to ensure police officers are properly trained,” said Cahill’s attorney, Timothy O’Brien. “The case involved an individual officer, but equally important is who was minding the store in terms of an officer with the type of complaints that had been filed against him.”

The lawsuit argued the borough and its former chief “were on notice of Thom’s violent propensities, his improper and excessive use of force, including the unnecessary Tasering of citizens, and were also on notice that Thom carried out false arrests and/or filed false and unfounded criminal charges against citizens.”

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