Man shot in ice truck suing city, New London police officer

A New London police officer shot a man after police say he stole a truck and rolled it over at the intersection of Bank Street and Jefferson Avenue in August. Now that man, Curtis Cunningham of New Haven, is suing the city and the police officer.
A New London police officer shot a man after police say he stole a truck and rolled it over at the intersection of Bank Street and Jefferson Avenue in August. Now that man, Curtis Cunningham of New Haven, is suing the city and the police officer. Tim Martin/The Day file photo Buy Photo

A 27-year-old man whom a New London police officer shot several times is suing the city and the officer who shot him.

Curtis Cunningham, of New Haven, contends in a federal lawsuit filed Friday in New Haven that Officer Thomas Northup "negligently discharged his weapon ... causing severe and grievous injuries, including spinal injury and paraplegia."

On Aug. 24, police said Cunningham stole an ice truck from outside a liquor store on Montauk Avenue and then lost control of the truck as he took a sharp left turn onto Jefferson Avenue from Bank Street.

An officer who was taking a complaint from a citizen at the CVS Pharmacy spotted the truck as it made the turn and radioed in to dispatch that the truck had crashed.

When officers approached the truck, Cunningham was standing up in the cab, police reported at the time. Police ordered Cunningham to show his hands but he failed to comply, state police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance has said. Cunningham then made an "overt movement," Vance said, at which point officers fired.

State police said they did not recover a gun from the scene.

Police Chief Margaret Ackley said in an email Tuesday night that the New London Police Department is awaiting the findings of the state police investigation into the incident. The case is now in the state police's hands, Ackley said.

It was unclear Tuesday whether Cunningham has been charged with any wrongdoing.

Cunningham's attorney, Michael A. Stratton of New Haven, states in the complaint that Cunningham "sustained damages including pain and suffering, fear of death, destruction of earning capacity, medical expenses, severe disability, paralysis and an inability to carry on and enjoy all of life's activities."

Cunningham is seeking unspecified monetary and punitive damages.

Northup has been with the New London Police Department for 3½ years. Stratton said in the complaint that Northup used excessive and unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment when he "repeatedly discharged his weapon into the plaintiff while he was unarmed."

Reached late Tuesday, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said he had just been made aware of the lawsuit and would like a chance to review it first before commenting on the case early this afternoon.

Stratton could not be reached to comment late Tuesday.

j.hanckel@theday.com

Day staff writer Chuck Potter contributed to this report.

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