Deptford police officer sued by resident claiming brutality

The resident claims she had to undergo surgery due to her arrest.

A Deptford Township police officer who was cleared by the county of any wrongdoing after fatally shooting a shoplifting suspect last year, is being sued for an unrelated incident by a resident alleging brutality and unlawful arrest.

The civil rights action lawsuit was filed Oct. 25 in Camden federal court by attorney Emeka Igwe of The Igwe Firm. It claims Sgt. Kevin Clements physically assaulted Westville resident Brittany Starzi and unlawfully arrested her at Nipper’s Pub on the morning of March 18, 2018.

“My client, Brittany Starzi, has suffered a vicious attack and was treated cruelly by a member of law enforcement,” Igwe said in a press release.

The five-count complaint contends Clements entered the bar with another officer to remove unwanted patrons. He then approached Starzi and yelled at her to exit the bar, guided her toward the exit and punched her in the face, according to the lawsuit. According to the police report, Starzi physically tried to resist leaving the bar, cursed and yelled directly at Clements as he guided her out, and also struck his chin “with her flat fingers,” making Clement’s head recoil slightly. In the report, Clements said he reacted to Starzi’s actions by “immediately punching her one time on the left side of her cheek with a closed fist.” 

The lawsuit claims Starzi was knocked to the ground by the force of Clements’ punch and “sustained severe and permanent injuries from both the initial punch and the subsequent fall to the ground.” 

Clements’ report, filed March 19, claims Starzi suffered her nose injuries when she was knocked to the ground after exiting the bar “with the next wave of people leaving.” 

The Deptford Township Police Department and township officials would not comment on the incident, stating “it is the long-standing practice of the township not to comment on matters that are under or pending litigation.” 

Starzi was charged with aggravated assault on police, resisting arrest, riot and failure to disperse disorderly conduct. After her arrest, she was transported from the police department to a nearby hospital, according to the police report.  

The department dismissed all charges against Starzi on April 3, 2019.

“Brittany was falsely accused of being an aggressor when in fact she was the victim,” Igwe said in his release. 

According to the lawsuit, Starzi was left with severe facial contusions, a broken nose, a deviated septum and a concussion – injuries that required surgery. The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for Starzi’s personal injury, emotional distress, past and future expenses and legal fees. 

One of the five complaints in the suit contends the excessive force used on Starzi by Clements “was not an isolated incident.” It claims the incident is a result of “systematic deficiencies in the training, supervision, and discipline” of officers by the township and the police department. It cites “numerous complaints of civil rights violations” in the past from Sgt. Clements and the department.

Bonita Miranda of Clayton sued Clements in 2015 for excessive force during a traffic stop two years before. Her lawsuit was settled in June 2017 for $20,000. Clements and the township were left with no admission of liability. 

While he was cleared by the county, the shoplifting and shooting involving Clements is still under federal review. LaShanda Anderson, 36, of Philadelphia was fatally shot by Clements after he answered the call of a shoplifting incident at a Deptford shopping center.