Woman sues over cop’s c-word insult
A year after he left the force, former Buffalo Police Lieutenant Michael DeLong keeps costing taxpayers money.
DeLong retired last March, after nearly 21 years as a cop, at least 36 internal affairs investigations, five suspensions for misconduct and six disciplinary conferences with superiors. In his first year as a civilian, he collected $65,761 in pension payments, plus health insurance, as he will until he dies.
But DeLong’s retirement benefits are just the first items on the bill.
Add to that the price of three civil lawsuits — one recently settled, two pending — for which the city bears the cost of defending the former B District officer and any damages awarded to the plaintiffs.
One of the lawsuits, filed in federal court, was recently settled at a cost to the city of $50,000. Another lawsuit, in state court, is in mediation.
A third lawsuit was filed in state court Friday. The plaintiff is Ruweyda Salim, the woman DeLong called a “disrespectful little fucking cunt” when Salim objected to the way police were handling a man suffering a mental health crisis at a West Side market.
First, the case the city just settled.
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Last month the Common Council approved a $50,000 payment to the plaintiff, Eitan Stant, to conclude a lawsuit arising from a February 2020 police raid on Stant’s Linwood Avenue apartment. The raid was precipitated by a 911 call from a neighbor reporting a burglary in progress, according to police, but the apartment’s two residents were the only people in the apartment when officers forced their way in. Stant was playing video games; his partner, Violet Knauss, was napping in the bedroom.
DeLong, the officer in charge of the scene, was violent and abusive, according to the lawsuit. In the end, he packed the outraged Stant into the back of a patrol car and sent him to ECMC for a psychiatric evaluation, where Stant was detained overnight. DeLong then locked Knauss out of their apartment in the February cold. Neither Stant nor Knauss were charged with any crime.
Stant filed suit last May, accusing the city, the police department, DeLong and 10 more Buffalo cops — five of them trainees at the time — of unlawful entry and search, excessive use of force, and wrongful detainment, among other claims.
DeLong is also named in an ongoing state lawsuit, this one filed by nine local activists arrested during the 2020 demonstrations demanding police reform. All charges against the activists — who were arrested during a late-night effort to clear Niagara Square of protesters — eventually were dropped.
In February of last year, the nine sued the city, the department, DeLong and seven other police officers for, among other claims, “false arrest” and “malicious prosecution.”
The case is in mediation. City lawyers are defending DeLong and the other officers, as they did in the Stant case.
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The city will also pay for DeLong’s defense against the claims made Friday by Salim, whom he harassed “physically and verbally,” according to the lawsuit, filed June 10 by Salim’s attorney, Brittany Penberthy.
Penberthy also represents the nine activists arrested in Niagara Square.
Penberthy told Investigative Post she hopes for a quick settlement to Salim’s lawsuit. The video of the incident made DeLong a symbol for police misconduct in Buffalo and was condemned by the department, though not by the police union. In fact, Penberthy attributed DeLong’s retirement — she called it his “termination” — to the department’s efforts to discipline him for his behavior.
“I respect [the department], at least in this incident, publicly recognizing and appropriately disciplining officers that breach constitutional rights and local standards,” Penberthy wrote Investigative Post in an email.
“This is a welcome change, but a little too late to avoid the unfortunate interaction encountered by Ms. Salim. We welcome expeditious conclusion of this civil matter knowing the City has previously expressed dissatisfaction over the incident.”
The video of DeLong berating Salim made him a poster child for police misconduct, but he’s not the department’s most expensive officer. That title belongs to retired Detective Mark Stambach, now an investigator with the Erie County District Attorney’s office. Stambach was central to a lawsuit filed by Josue Ortiz, who spent 10 years in prison on the basis of a confession the lawsuit contended was compelled and false. A jury awarded Ortiz $6.5 million last month.
Second place belongs to the man who led the charge into Eitan Stant’s Linwood Avenue apartment: B District Officer Karl Schultz.
Schultz shot and paralyzed Wilson Morales in 2012, leading to a lawsuit the city settled in 2020 for $4.5 million. He and the city are currently being sued by the family of Willie Henley, the homeless man Schultz shot in September 2020.