War on Drugs

Another Curtain Measurer Safely Taken Off the Streets; Or, Another Isolated Incident


Tom's River, New Jersey:

A Toms River man, who claimed he was in an apartment to measure for curtains when he was kicked and stomped on by law enforcement officers during a drug raid four years ago, has won a $350,000 settlement in exchange for the dismissal of his excessive force lawsuit, his attorney said.

Jon Caldwell, 54, suffered chest trauma and fractured ribs after law enforcement officers "put their boots on his neck and started beating him by kicking and stomping on him," according to the lawsuit, which attorney Eugene Melody said was filed in September 2006.

The lawsuit contends that on Dec. 17, 2004, the then-Dover Township Police Department and the Ocean County Narcotics Strike Force were executing search warrants on a pair of apartments in the Park Ridge Apartment complex on Walnut Street. The raids were part of an ongoing investigation into the distribution of marijuana in the Toms River area, according to the suit.

Caldwell had signed a lease to rent an apartment in the complex beginning in January. The superintendent of the complex had given Caldwell a key to the apartment so he could measure for window treatments and furnishings, the suit states.

On a tip that a person was in an abandoned apartment, law enforcement also raided an apartment that they did not have a search warrant for, the suit claims. Caldwell was in that apartment.

"Several men in SWAT-type gear broke down the door to his apartment and tackled him, slamming him face first to the floor. These men, . . . members of the Narcotics Strike Force, put their boots on his neck and started kicking and stomping on him," the suit states. "None of these men ever identified themselves as "law enforcement' to Mr. Caldwell or asked him what he was doing in the apartment."

After law enforcement realized Caldwell had nothing to do with the drug raid, they let him go, the suit states. The next day, Caldwell was admitted to Community Medical Center, Toms River, according to the suit. His medical bills total nearly $100,000, according to the suit.

Even they'd had the right guy, was the beating and stomping really necessary?

Note too the lack of an announcement.