For at least the third time in less than a year, Buffalo police officers are being accused in a federal civil lawsuit of lying or covering up for their mistakes.
Daniel Mele, of Buffalo, states in his Aug. 17 civil lawsuit that once the officers realized they had arrested an innocent person, they “conspired to cover up the fact that Mr. Mele had been wrongfully arrested without legal justification.”
The lawsuit states that at around 4:45 a.m. on Aug. 29, 2019, Mele was on the sidewalk near his home on Tioga Street when Buffalo Police Officers Andrew R. Thomas and Phillip Edwards tackled Mele from behind, which rendered Mele “momentarily unconscious.”
The lawsuit states that once Mele regained consciousness, the two officers and at least one other unknown officer “grabbed his wrist and forcefully pulled one arm behind his back while he lay prone on the ground.”
“They continued to apply force as they handcuffed him,” the lawsuit states.
Officers placed Mele in the back of a police cruiser and they drove to Denny’s on Delaware Avenue, where a robbery had occurred. Officers wanted a restaurant employee to identify whether Mele was the suspect in the robbery.
The Denny’s employee allegedly told officers that the robber “bore no similarity to Mr. Mele.”
“After learning that Mr. Mele was not the robbery suspect the officers realized they had arrested an innocent person,” the lawsuit states.
“Instead of releasing Mr. Mele from custody, they conspired to cover up the fact that Mr. Mele had been wrongfully arrested without legal justification.”
Indeed, officers charged Mele with second degree obstruction of governmental administration. Mele was locked up until his arraignment, when the charge got dismissed and he was released.
Mele states in the lawsuit that because of the incident, he sustained physical injuries and mental distress.
Mele and his attorney, Laurie A. Baker of Meyers Buth Law Group, declined to comment.
This is at least the third lawsuit filed in less than a year that levels similar allegations against Buffalo Police officers.
James Kistner, of Buffalo, filed a federal lawsuit that accuses officers of covering up for another officer who struck Kistner with her police cruiser and wrongfully arrested him without providing any immediate medical care.
Bruce McNeil, of Buffalo, filed a federal lawsuit last month accusing Buffalo Police officers of planting crack cocaine charges on him after he twice tried to file an Internal Affairs complaint with the police department for what he believes was an unlawful stop on Memorial Day 2019.
The Buffalo Police Department has a policy of not commenting on active litigation.