Wrongful death lawsuit filed
BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Wyoming County Press Examiner
The widow of the Lake Winola man killed last November while a mental health warrant was being served filed a complaint Friday against the police officer responsible for his death.
The complaint against Tunkhannock Twp. police officer Mark Papi alleges the wrongful death of Brian P. Williams at his home just off Rt. 307 in Lake Winola.
A jury trial is demanded in the Wyoming County Court of
Common Pleas on behalf of Melinda Williams, administrator of the estate of Mr. Williams.
The lawsuit alleges three counts against Papi: deprivation of constitutional rights, assault and battery.
In each count, Williams’ estate is seeking punitive damages in excess of $50,000, as well as plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and court costs.
The complaint notes that on Nov. 7, Brian Williams attended a counseling session at 1:30 p.m. at Community Counseling Services in Tunkhannock, and that his mother was present during the entire counseling session.
The complaint notes that during or shortly after the counseling session, a CCS employee or agent requested issuance of a mental health warrant.
Although the complaint did not say why the warrant was being served, previous reports noted that at 1:42 p.m., the Wyoming County 911 center had been contacted by CCS “because it was alleged he had threatened to kill his wife.”
Following the counseling session, Williams arrived at the Lake Winola residence where he lived with his wife and two of their three children.
Shortly thereafter, Overfield Twp. police officers arrived at the home, but did not actually possess any warrant, the complaint states.
The Overfield police requested assistance from surrounding police departments, and Officer Papi and other law enforcement responded, but the complaint claims no law enforcement officer possessed an actual warrant.
It was stated that Mr. Williams’ father entered the home twice and spoke with him while police were outside supposedly awaiting the arrival of a warrant.
The complaint notes that Williams’ wife was called to the scene by police but was kept outside of her home by them.
The complaint notes that Mr. Williams had several phone conversations with family members, including his mother and wife.
The complaint alleges that he told his mother he had a bag packed and was coming out of the house.; and he also told his wife he was coming out.
The complaint says, “Mrs. Williams told the police that she would be able to get her husband outside if she could just go inside and talk to him.”
Police, however, would not permit the wife or mother to go inside even though his father had been inside twice and emerged unharmed.
The complaint notes that Mr. Williams spoke with Tunkhannock Twp. Police Chief Stanley Ely who allegedly said he would bring Williams’ wife and mother to the phone, but he refused to do so, with no reason given for the refusal.
Mr. Williams also spoke with a presently unidentified police officer on the phone and told that officer he had a bag packed and was coming out.
However, the complaint notes that “instead of waiting for Williams to come out peacefully, officers took out their shields and guns.
Williams’ mother pleaded with officers “not to do this,” but her request was ignored, the complaint alleges.
At that point at least six officers formed a group that used a key and entered the home through the front door, and the complaint alleges additional officers entered the home through a basement door.
Mr. Williams was inside a bedroom in the basement of the home, behind a closed door.
The complaint also alleges that Officer Papi had received instructions requiring him to stay outside, to make sure that Mr. Williams did not attempt to flee, but “instead chose to enter the home with the officers that went inside.”
It is further alleged that no officer made an effort to handcuff Mr. Williams once the room was entered, “which permitted Mr. Williams to get up and they then shot him with tasers, multiple times.”
The complaint avers that Papi shot Mr. Williams with a gun twice, and he is the only police officer who discharged his gun, and that there were “only minutes” between when the officers entered the home and Williams was shot.
Finally the suit claims “It was unreasonable for defendant Papi to use deadly force against an individual having a mental health issue with a two-foot fireplace poker” and a multitude of other things, including simply staying away from the poker, instead of using deadly force to seize Mr. Williams.”
In the suit’s first count, it is claimed that use of unreasonable force constituted an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and that Williams’ premature death deprived him his due process rights under the 14th Amendment’
In the second count of assault the complaint alleges “offensive contact” with Williams’ body.
And, in the third count of battery, the complaint alleges the “Defendant committed acts upon Mr. Williams which impinged on his physical dignity and/or inviolability.”
The complaint was filed in the Wyoming County courthouse Friday, and notes Papi has 20 days to take action after being served it.
Earlier this month, Papi filed papers noting that he had hired attorney Michael J. Zicolello of Williamsport to represent him.
In January, Wyoming County District Attorney Jeff Mitchell announced that Officer Papi would not face criminal charges for fatally shooting Brian Williams on Nov. 7, although Mitchell did say officers on the scene failed to establish an incident command and properly communicate with one another during the operation.