A man in Washington, D.C., has filed a lawsuit against a police officer for probing his anus and grabbing his genitals in an invasive body search during a stop-and-frisk last year.
Cell phone video of the incident shows M.B. Cottingham, 39, being searched Metropolitan Police Department Officer Sean Lojacono in the city’s Bellevue section on Sept. 27.
According to the lawsuit, Lojacono was one of the several officers who stopped in front of Cottingham and his friends who were sitting on a public sidewalk with an open bottle of alcohol.
The lawsuit says Lojacono noticed a small bulge in Cottingham’s sock, which was a “small, clear bag containing less than an eighth of an ounce of marijuana – a quantity that a person may legally possess under District law…”
Cottingham then placed the bag of marijuana on the hood of a nearby car and asked Officer Lojacono, “Do you need me to do the hokey-pokey?”
The hokey-pokey is “street slang for turning oneself around while lifting one’s shirt for the purpose of demonstrating to a police officer that one is unarmed.”
But Officier Lojacono took what should’ve been a routine frisk and turned it into a “shocking and unjustified invasion” of Cottingham’s privacy, according to ACLU staff attorney Scott Michelman, who is representing Cottingham.
According to the lawsuit, “Officer Lojacono reached immediately between Mr. Cottingham’s legs, grabbed his scrotum, felt around with his hand and stuck his thumb in Mr. Cottingham’s anus.”
At one point on the video, Cottingham can be seen swatting the officer’s hands away from him, at which point Officer Lojacono places him in handcuffs. Officer Lojacono then searches the same areas on Cottingham’s body a second and third time.
ACLU officials said the department’s chief, Peter Newsham, acknowledged during a DC Council hearing last week that he saw the video and felt the officer had touched Cottingham inappropriately.
In addition to discomfort in his genital area for weeks, Cottingham now suffers ongoing anxiety, depression, and fear of being in public, ACLU officials said.
“I’ve never been so humiliated in my life,” Cottingham said in a statement. “It’s bad enough that members of my community are stopped and frisked by the police all the time. I’ve been frisked many times and even beaten by police. But this officer treated me like I’m not even a human being.”