Lawsuit: City could have done more to thwart sex-abusing ex-cop

Posted: July 26, 2013

DEBORAH GROOMS is living her lifelong dream, being a Philadelphia police officer.

Tyrone Wiggins, the ex-cop who destroyed her adolescence by subjecting her to eight nightmarish years of sexual assaults and beatings, is two years into a 17 1/2- to 35-year state prison sentence.

Time has marched on, but Grooms' anguish still lingers - along with the nagging thought that somewhere along the way, someone in the city should have stopped Wiggins sooner.

That belief is the basis of a lawsuit that Grooms, 28, filed this month against Wiggins; the police department; former top cops Richard Neal, John Timoney and Sylvester Johnson; and the Department of Parks and Recreation, all of which are accused of failing to properly supervise Wiggins while he served both as a cop and as a karate instructor at the Olney Recreation Center.

The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 in damages.

"She has scars that will never go away," said Nancy Winkler, Grooms' lawyer. "The policies and procedures of the police department were such that they allowed something like this to happen."

Grooms was just 10 when she was a student learning karate from the former Marine at the rec center.

Wiggins began to sexually assault the girl regularly when she turned 12, and the abuse became increasingly frightening as Grooms grew older.

On several occasions, her neighbors called police when they heard Wiggins become loud and violent. When cops responded, Wiggins "showed his badge and told them everything was OK and they never asked any more questions," the lawsuit alleges.

Some of the assaults occurred while Wiggins was on duty and in uniform. He lied to police dispatchers about his location during the assaults, the lawsuit claims.

Wiggins retired from the force on Nov. 18, 2009, and was arrested the next day. His arrest was not made public, however, until the Daily News reported on the case the following month.

In the meantime, he had continued to teach karate at the Olney Recreation Center. Wiggins was convicted on charges that included involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and statutory sexual assault in 2010.

"This was a difficult decision for [Grooms] to make," Winkler said, "but she doesn't want this to happen to any other kids."

On Twitter: @dgambacorta

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