Thomas Donovan, a student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, filed a civil rights lawsuit against several police officers over an incident that happened on March 8, 2014.
Donovan's lawsuit claims that four or five Amherst police officers falsely arrested him, used excessive force and violated his rights to film in public.
A video (below) of the incident filmed by Donavan was posted on YouTube by the Law Offices of Howard Friedman, PC, which represents him in his lawsuit.
The officers, dressed in riot gear, were trying to clear an area near some apartments during a St. Patrick's Day event called the Blarney Blowout.
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Donovan was filming the officers with his iPhone when he was approached by several cops, reported MassLive.com.
Donavan's lawsuit claims one officer "pepper sprayed him at close range" even though he was lawfully filming.
The suit also says Donovan had his iPhone knocked out of his hand by another officer and was arrested.
One officer was caught on the video stomping on the iPhone in a possible attempt to destroy it, claims the lawsuit.
According to Sergeant Jesus Arocho's police report, Donovan "began to close the area between himself and the officers," which does not appear to be true based on the video.
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Donovan was charged with disorderly conduct and failure to disperse, but those charges were later dropped. UMass suspended Donovan for a semester until he was cleared of the allegations.
“The goal of the lawsuit is to obtain money damages to compensate Mr. Donovan, as well as to vindicate his First Amendment right to videotape officers in public,” said Donavan's lawyer, David Milton, noted GazetteNet.com.
“Recording the police is a basic First Amendment right,” added Milton. “Police officers should be trained to assume they are being recorded whenever they’re on duty.”