Cops Off the Hook for Camastro’s Door

The city of Wheeling should not be held responsible for replacing a motel door that police broke down in the act of arresting a fugitive who was staying there, Circuit Judge David Sims ruled.

Grove Terrace Motel owner Vince Camastro had appealed to Ohio County Circuit Court following Magistrate Joe Roxby’s December 2012 dismissal of Camastro’s original lawsuit, which sought $1,800 plus attorney’s fees for damage done by police officers serving a fugitive warrant on a suspect in a Benwood break-in in July 2011.

State law provides that political subdivisions are immune from liability for damages resulting from “execution or enforcement of the lawful orders of any court.” Employees of political subdivisions also are immune unless the act in question occurred outside their official duties or was performed recklessly or with malicious intent.

In his order affirming Roxby’s decision, Sims said Camastro failed to present sufficient evidence demonstrating that the officers were either acting recklessly or outside the scope of their authority in kicking down the door. Camastro had argued that the officers should have asked him to open the door prior to breaking it down.

In addition to the city, the suit individually named two officers, Thomas Callison and Will Ward, as defendants, along with the arrestee, Zachary Collins – who Camastro alleged should be held responsible for “wrongfully concealing himself from justice as a fugitive. Sims’ order notes that the matter appears to remain unresolved with respect to Collins who unlike the officers, has no claim to immunity from liability.

Camastro could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Camastro has a contentious relationship with the city that dates back almost 20 years to 1994, when he was denied a zoning variance for a car wash he wanted to build in Elm Grove. In the years since, Camastro he has erected multiple signs expressing his displeasure with city officials on his property that the city has ordered him to remove – most recently in May 2012 – saying they violate zoning code.