Canadian man says Pa. trooper beat him

Posted: July 12, 2007

A Toronto-area man filed suit this week against a Pennsylvania state trooper who he said assaulted him, demanded cash, and used a racial slur during a traffic stop last summer near State College.

Nana Kwasi Kyeame, 35, a Canadian citizen born in Ghana, alleged in the federal lawsuit that Trooper Nicholas Buchheit, 28, violated his civil and constitutional rights. Kyeame is seeking unspecified damages.

Karen G. Muir, who represents Buchheit, strongly denied the allegations.

"In Pennsylvania, there absolutely are bad cops, and I'm glad the ACLU is there to protect citizens. . . . But Nick Buchheit is not one of those rogue officers," said Muir, of State College.

According to the lawsuit, Kyeame, a computer programmer, and his wife, Evelyn Amoh, were driving from a funeral in Maryland to their Brampton, Ontario, home on July 2, 2006, when Buchheit stopped them for speeding.

The trooper told Kyeame to pay his fine to him immediately or face arrest, the suit said. When Kyeame said he did not know whether he had enough money, Buchheit "pulled him out of his vehicle," twisted his arm, pushed him to the ground and "assaulted him further," the suit said.

Buchheit called him a "Canadian n-," the suit said, and advised Kyeame to "pray very hard" that the situation would not turn "ugly."

Kyeame later required medical care and was "partially disabled" for a time, the suit said.

"The abuse of power in this case is astounding," said Vic Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, in a news release.

The trooper's version of events differs markedly from Kyeame's story.

According to Buchheit's criminal complaint, his radar unit clocked Kyeame on Route 322 going 81 m.p.h. in a 55-m.p.h. zone. Buchheit told Kyeame that he could use cash, a check or a money order to pay his fine or he would be taken to the District Court for a hearing, the complaint said.

Buchheit described Kyeame as uncooperative and added that, after failing to pay, Kyeame had to be pulled from his vehicle to be arrested.

Muir said she reviewed the booking photo of Kyeame and saw no signs of injury. The lawyer added that she had represented many criminal defendants who had been arrested by Buchheit during his five years as a state trooper and never heard one complaint about his conduct.

Kyeame spent three days in jail. On July 5, the charges were withdrawn because "time served for original speeding violation is satisfactory," court records said.

The state vehicle code requires nonresidents of Pennsylvania stopped for traffic violations to be escorted by the officer for a hearing or payment of the fine and costs. The driver has the option of mailing the payment in the presence of the officer. State guidelines for traveling 81 m.p.h. in a 55-m.p.h. zone call for a fine and costs of about $180.

Harrisburg lawyer Spero Lappas, who with the ACLU is representing Kyeame, said he expected to produce "overwhelming evidence" to support the plaintiff's claim.

"We think there's more than one available witness," he said.

State Police Capt. Jeffrey S. Watson, who oversees the Rockview barracks where Buchheit works, said he had not seen the suit and could not comment if he had.

He said that police complaints could be lodged many ways, including online, but that the barracks had received no complaint from Kyeame.


Contact staff writer Kathleen Brady Shea at 610-701-7625 or kbrady@phillynews.com.

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