By Matt Coughlin The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
PHILADELPHIA — As the Philadelphia Eagles progressed through the playoffs earlier this year en route to their Super Bowl victory, police claimed on two consecutive weekends that fans assaulted officers’ horses.
Now one of the two men who were charged is suing police and the team, claiming assault, false imprisonment and defamation of character.
Andrew Tornetta of Montgomery Township, Montgomery County, is asking for more than $50,000 in damages, according to a lawsuit filed by his attorney Steven F. Marino in Philadelphia civil court.
Tornetta was the second man accused of attacking a police horse in Philadelphia during the playoffs.
City police charged Taylor Hendricks of Somerset Road in Whitehall Township with aggravated assault and related offenses after a Jan. 13 incident in the parking lot outside the Eagles game.
Police said Hendricks got drunk, got kicked out of the stadium and repeatedly punched a police horse in the face.
Hendricks, who has since turned 23, was placed in a yearlong accelerated rehabilitative disposition program on April 11, according to court records. The program will enable him to avoid prison, and if he completes the requirements of the program — which often include counseling — the charges against him will be expunged.
Tornetta, like Hendricks, was initially charged with aggravated assault. Police said Tornetta punched a state police horse and a mounted state police corporal during an altercation on Jan. 21 in the parking lot. Tornetta, who was 19 at the time, has since turned 20.
His charges were reduced to resisting arrest and other misdemeanors, and eight days after his arrest he was placed in the accelerated misdemeanor program which required him to complete 12 hours of community service, which was done in March.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, Tornetta claims the incident did not occur as police say it did. He is suing Philadelphia police officer Paul Tinney, state police trooper Wesley Van Wyk, and the Eagles, according to the suit.
The suit claims Tornetta says he was in the parking lot when Tinney, Van Wyk and other mounted police attempted to disperse a crowd.
“As a result of the sheer size of the crowd of people assembled in the parking lot [Tornetta’s] path of exit from the parking lot aisle … was blocked,” according to the lawsuit.
Tornetta says he was moving as directed when “defendant Wesley Van Wyk reached down with his right hand from his position on horseback and gripped the collar of the apparel which [Tornetta] was wearing,” according to the lawsuit.
Van Wyk continued to advance his horse forward while holding Tornetta’s collar, causing the clothing to rise up over Tornetta’s face and limiting his use of his upper body, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says another mounted officer, whose identity is unknown, and Van Wyk pulled Tornetta’s shirt off. Yet another mounted officer whose identity is also unknown, repeatedly struck Tornetta with a police baton, according to the lawsuit.
Tornetta says he broke free and began to walk to the crowd when a security officer restrained him, according the the suit, and Tinney then struck him in the head with a police baton.
Tornetta was arrested and during a subsequent investigation Tinney and Van Wyk made multiple misleading statements to a police detective that are contradicted by video of the incident, the suit claims.
©2018 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)