Lawsuit alleges Alliance Police Officers assaulted man during traffic stops, violated Civil Rights

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Mario Zachery is pepper sprayed by Alliance Police Officer Tussey.
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Attorneys Jeffrey Jakmides and Julie Jakmides have filed a lawsuit in Stark County Common Pleas Court, Civil Division, on behalf of their client, Mario Zachery, alleging that two Alliance Police Officers assaulted Zachery during separate incidents and violated his civil rights. The lawsuit also targets the City of Alliance for what it alleges is a failure in proper training and supervision of an officer.  

According to the complaint, Zachery, a resident of Alliance, was targeted by the Alliance Police Department early last year in 2023. The lawsuit alleges that Zachery was subjected to excessive force and misconduct during encounters with Alliance Police Officers Christian A. Tussey and Robert Toussant. 

Zachery’s first encounter with Alliance Police occurred on Feb. 5, 2023, at the Sheetz Gas Station on State Street in Alliance. The lawsuit alleges that during a traffic stop for a turn signal violation, Officer Toussant and another officer used excessive force, with Toussant reportedly rushing Zachery’s vehicle and deploying a taser on Zachery. 

The lawsuit alleges that Zachery was pulled over by an Alliance police officer for failure to properly use a turn signal. Officer Toussant responded to the traffic stop as backup, the lawsuit alleges. The officer conducting the traffic stop had ordered commands toward Zachery to exit his vehicle. In Toussant’s body camera footage, Zachery is seen slowly exiting the vehicle. That’s when Officer Toussant rushed the vehicle and appeared to cram a taser into Zachery’s side/abdomen area while he was being held by officers against his car. 

The lawsuit states, “Toussant’s conduct constitutes an assault and battery in that he intentionally caused harmful or offensive contact with [Zachery]…Toussant’s use of excessive force was without cause, in particular in the fact that he was a backup officer and had little awareness of the situation that was unfolding.” 

The suit also alleges that Officer Toussant acted unreasonably and without legal justification to use force. 

The lawsuit claims that Toussant’s actions constituted assault and battery, with Zachery allegedly suffering over $25,000 in damages as a result. 

Zachery’s second encounter with Alliance Police occurred just months later, on April 15, 2023. This time, Officer Tussey was involved. 

In the body camera video, Officer Tussey can be seen following behind Zachery’s vehicle when he turns on his overhead lights and sirens while on Main Street in Alliance. When the lights and sirens were activated, Zachery continued driving at the speed limit for less than a quarter mile and pulled over at the nearest gas station, the Marathon located at the corner of Main Street and Union Ave. The lawsuit alleges Zachery did so out of fear of the conduct of the Alliance Police Department and to avoid a traffic stop in a dark and unpopulated area. 

Upon Zachery’s vehicle coming to a stop in the parking lot, Officer Tussey stepped out of the vehicle and began yelling for Zachery to turn off the car while also instructing him to put his hands out the window. Officer Tussey repeated these commands multiple times. The lawsuit alleges that the commands were “conflicting and confusing.” 

In the body camera footage, Zachery can be seen putting his hands out of the window and holding them there, after he turned the vehicle off. Officer Tussey begins to walk up to the driver’s side of the car, and another Alliance Police Officer arrives as backup. Officer Tussey grabs hold of Zachery’s hands while they remain out of the window and instructs his colleague to open Zachery’s car door. In the video, the responding backup officer can be heard saying, “it’s locked.” That’s when Tussey retrieves his pepper spray, points it at Zachery, and orders him to ”Open it. RIGHT F-CKING NOW. OPEN IT!” 

Once Zachery unlocks the vehicle, the responding backup officer reached inside and unbuckled Zachery’s seatbelt. At this point, the video shows Tussey grabbing Zachery’s hands and pulling him out of the car while instructing him to exit the vehicle. 

“Get out of the car, or you’re getting sprayed,” Tussey said. “Get on the ground.” 

As Tussey and the responding backup officer hold onto Zachery, who has begun to sit down on the ground, Tussey orders him to lie on his belly. As Zachery begins to turn to his stomach, the video shows Officer Tussey spraying Zachery in the face and eyes with pepper spray, holding the can just inches from Zachery’s face. 

In Officer Tussey’s report, he wrote that the reason for pulling over Zachery was because he crossed over marked lanes and drove into the oncoming lane.

The lawsuit alleges that Officer Tussey’s conduct “constitutes a battery in that he intentionally caused harmful or offensive contact” with Zachery. It further states that Officer Tussey used the pepper spray in an inappropriate and excessive manner. 

The City of Alliance is named in the lawsuit for allegedly failing to properly train Officers Tussey and Toussant, despite knowledge of prior incidents of excessive force. The suit argues that the city’s actions resulted in the denial of Zachery’s civil rights. 

The lawsuit seeks economic, non-economic, and punitive damages, as well as pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney’s fees, and costs incurred in excess of $1 million.

There was no immediate response from the Alliance Police Department or the City of Alliance regarding the lawsuit.