A man in Washington, DC, is suing a police officer for probing his anus and grabbing his genitals in an invasive body search during a stop-and-frisk last year.
A 2-minute video of the incident shows M.B. Cottingham — a 39-year-old man who works as an ice cream vendor — being searched by Metropolitan Police Department Officer Sean Lojacono in the city’s Bellevue section on Sept. 27.
Cottingham and his friends were on a sidewalk discussing plans for his birthday when two cop cars pulled up, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which claims the cop violated Cottingham’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Several officers then asked Cottingham and his friends if they had any weapons, prompting the group to say they did not. Cottingham then pulled out a legal amount of marijuana from his sock and agreed to let Lojacono pat him down further to avoid a confrontation, ACLU officials said. An officer was later seen on the video pouring out a bottle of alcohol.
But the officer took what should’ve been a routine frisk and turned it into a “shocking and unjustified invasion” of Cottingham’s privacy, according to ACLU staff attorney Scott Michelman, who is representing Cottingham.
“He stuck his finger in my crack, man,” Cottingham said to his friends during the search, video shows. “Don’t do that, man … I don’t have nothing.”
Cottingham then followed the officer’s instructions to squat down to allow the search to continue, but the officer continued prodding far beyond the standard scope of a pat-down, according to ACLU officials, jamming his fingers into the man’s buttocks and anus and grabbing his scrotum.
“Stop fingering me though, bruh,” Cottingham told Lojacano. “You fingering my a–, man.”
“I’m outside your pants, bro,” the officer replied. “Relax.”
“Don’t sit here and finger my a— like that, like I’m not a man,” Cottingham said.
The officer’s actions depicted on the video show a “violation of [his] constitutional rights and basic dignity,” Michelman said.
“When a routine frisk turns into a search this invasive, the officer is not pursuing a legitimate law enforcement purpose but simply degrading someone and asserting his own power,” Michelman said in a statement.
A police spokesman declined to comment when reached Thursday by The Post, citing pending litigation.
ACLU officials said the department’s chief, Peter Newsham, acknowledged during a DC Council hearing last week that he saw the video and felt the officer had touched Cottingham inappropriately.
In addition to discomfort in his genital area for weeks, Cottingham now suffers ongoing anxiety, depression and fear of being in public, ACLU officials said.
“I’ve never been so humiliated in my life,” Cottingham said in a statement. “It’s bad enough that members of my community are stopped and frisked by the police all the time. I’ve been frisked many times and even beaten by police. But this officer treated me like I’m not even a human being.”
By JOSHUA RHETT MILLER