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Teen Locked in Police Van Sues Borough, Fort Lee Police, Report Says

The attorney for one of the five teenagers left locked in a police transport van nearly two years ago filed a civil lawsuit in Newark.

A Fort Lee college freshman, who was among five minors left locked in a police transport van outside the Fort Lee Department in March 2011, has filed a civil suit against the borough, the police department and several police officers, according to a report.

Adam Kim was 17 on March 26, 2011, when he and four other teenagers were left in the van for more than 14 hours in freezing temperatures and without food, water or bathroom facilities.

Kim is seeking a jury trial, compensatory and punitive damages and contends in the lawsuit filed in federal court that police detained him illegally and violated his civil rights, NorthJersey.com reported.

Now former Fort Lee Police Chief Thomas Ripoli, who retired Monday after reaching the state-mandated retirement age of 65, is named in the lawsuit, along with at least 12 Fort Lee police officers, according to the report.

Three Fort Lee police officers were suspended almost immediately after the incident pending disciplinary hearings. Police also launched an internal investigation that Fort Lee officials said was concluded in late April 2011.

Officials said that at least eight police officers were disciplined in light of the investigation; borough administrator Peggy Thomas told Patch at the time that three officers received “major disciplinary action,” and that “about five more” received “minor disciplinary action,” adding that officials couldn’t release further details.

Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said in 2011 that at least one demotion was involved, along with “multiple days of suspension without pay.”

“A conclusion was reached as to what occurred, and it was determined that it was human error—nonetheless, an error,” Sokolich said.

Kim’s attorney, Nancy Lucianna, who filed a notice of claim—a pre-requisite to filing a lawsuit—in April 2011, told Patch at the time that the notice of claim has to be filed within 90 days but that a lawsuit can be filed up to two years after the incident.

“If they don’t give us an offer of settlement, we’re definitely going to file,” she said in June 2011.

Lucianna says Kim continues to suffer from emotional problems, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, nearly two years after the incident and has to take medication, according to the NorthJersey.com report.

Howard L. Pearl January 06, 2013 at 04:15 PM
We live in a litigious society. Anyone looking to make a quick buck sues. There is no doubt that there was negligence in this case. At the time, knowing full well that a lawsuit was a more than distinct possibility, consideration should have been given to a settlement at the time of the incident with all the families. This lawsuit could easily lead to multiple suits if Adam Kim should prevail. The sad part of this entire case is that these kids and their parents were not innocent victims. The arrest was warranted; the negligence was inexcusable.
The Thorn January 06, 2013 at 09:18 PM
So the officers made a human mistake, we should have a public hanging? So if we commit a mistake at work, we should be fired???? If I was arrested for the same reason that these kids were, my parents would have told the police to leave locked up to teach me a lesson. And when I will be released, I would get a beating from both parents. Everyone is on the lawsuit bandwagon, the get rich quick dream. I wish I could be chosen for that jury. To the truth....reason that the officers' names are with held is due retaliation to the officers' families.
Arthur January 08, 2013 at 02:57 AM
So sad, these young kids could have died, where is the justice ?
William Mays January 08, 2013 at 04:58 AM
It doesn't sound like a mistake. You can't mistakenly take the van out to a call with screaming kids in the back. This was intentional.
Fort Lee Truth January 11, 2013 at 06:58 PM
For those interested, there is a MUCH more detailed article in today's Subarbanite about the lawsuit. It lists all of the officers in the suit and is much more detailed in the allegations made by Kim's attorney.

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