Salisbury settles lawsuits involving police

  • Posted: Friday, March 15, 2013 2:25 p.m.
Kareem Puranda
Kareem Puranda

SALISBURY — The city of Salisbury is settling lawsuits brought by residents who say current and former police officers violated their rights and used excessive force.

Meanwhile, one of those officers faces an April trial in federal court.

In October, Robin Otto Worth accepted a $40,000 settlement from the city and dismissed complaints against Salisbury Police Sgt. Mark Hunter and former officer Kareem Puranda, according to documents filed in Rowan County civil court.

The complaint said that after a 2009 traffic stop involving Hunter and Puranda, Worth left the scene and officers came after him. It said Puranda struck Worth in the head with his pistol, punched and kicked him, and used pepper spray and a Taser on him.

In November, the city paid Felicia Gibson $25,000 to settle her claim that Hunter violated her civil rights in 2009 when he ordered her to stop shooting video of a traffic stop and vehicle search and go inside her West Fisher Street home. Hunter then went into Gibson’s home and arrested her.

Rowan District Court Judge Beth Dixon convicted Gibson of resisting an officer in 2010, saying she had interfered with Hunter’s ability to do his job. That conviction was erased in January in superior court.

“After a thorough review of the evidence and relevant case law and after considering the circumstances surrounding the civil settlement between the Salisbury Police Department and the Defendant, the State is dismissing this charge in the interests of justice,” a dismissal notice signed by prosecutor Seth Banks said.

Worth and Gibson had joined brothers Michael Fox and John Fox in a lawsuit against the city, the officers and current and former police chiefs. A judge split the lawsuits and ordered mediation.

The complaint involving the Fox brothers stems from a 2009 fight at the former La Bamba nightclub. The suit said Puranda and Hunter assaulted Michael Fox after he was handcuffed and that John Fox was assaulted when he came to his brother’s aid.

The brothers were charged, but their charges were dismissed.

A judge has ordered mediation between the Fox brothers and the city, with an Aug. 12 deadline for reaching a settlement. Their complaints against Hunter and Puranda have been dismissed.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, Puranda is scheduled to go trial in early April on two charges of violating two victims’ constitutional rights by using excessive force. A grand jury indicted the former officer in December. One of the victims is Robin Otto Worth.

The city settled an earlier lawsuit involving Puranda in 2011 by paying Wayne Partee of Salisbury $60,000. Partee had also claimed Puranda used excessive force.

No contact information could be found for Puranda. According to filings with the N.C. Secretary of State’s office, he established a nonprofit based at his Charlotte home in August. Called Achieving Success on Purpose, the organization works with disadvantaged youth, Puranda’s Linkedin page says. Among the interests Puranda lists on his Linked page is “building community trust for law enforcement.”

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