A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the Atlanta Police Department of racial bias in a dispute between a traffic flagman and the woman driver he claims ran him over.
The lawsuit says Juan Moreno was using a flag to direct drivers around workers trimming trees away from Georgia Power lines on May 3, 2011, when the woman, Teresa Lyle-Barksdale, hit him while talking on her cellphone. According to the suit, she asked Moreno if he was in this country legally in an “attempt to intimidate him” and then called 911 to report “a fight with a weapon (in an) attempt to avoid the consequences of her actions.”
According to the lawsuit, Officer Craig O. Gonsalves-Barreiro frisked and detained Moreno, a U.S. citizen, without getting his version of events first. The suit says the officer told Moreno “damaging someone’s car was a crime.”
The suit says Moreno was never charged and was released later that afternoon. Lyle-Barksdale also was not charged.
The lawsuit claims that APD violated Moreno’s civil rights, humiliated him and did nothing to try to verify the driver’s version of what happened. Moreno also said in the lawsuit that the police report on the incident was incomplete, with critical details omitted, and that APD tried to hide it by ignoring his requests for documents under the Georgia Open Records Act.
APD declined to comment Tuesday on the lawsuit.
Moreno’s suit is similar to one he first filed in April last year, but in that one Lyle-Barksdale also was a defendant. The case was settled in August; the terms of that settlement were not available.
Lyle-Barksdale said in court filings before the agreement was reached that Moreno’s actions led to his injuries.
In dismissing that first suit after Moreno and the driver had settled, the judge said Moreno could refile against the city, APD and the officers and their supervisors, which he did Tuesday.
“I’m going to try and get justice for Mr. Moreno,” Lawrenceville attorney Drew Mosley said. “It’s not about a physical injury. It’s about a civil rights injury.”
The city’s lawyers argued in court filings in the first suit that the officers had the discretion to detain Moreno and that it was not a violation of his rights. The city also wrote that one instance did not suggest a pattern of violating the constitutional protection from unreasonable arrest.