A train passenger was pepper-sprayed and hit with a baton and fell off the platform onto live tracks in an altercation with a police officer who has been suspended for his conduct, officials said.
The man, Ryan Patterson, avoided contact with the rail’s electrical current, but waited almost 10 minutes before officers could hoist him back up to the platform, he said.
The Port Authority Transit Corp. officer, identified through charging documents as Michael Fiocca, was hired by PATCO in 2014. Fiocca wrote in his report that he approached Patterson after seeing him walk from the eastbound platform at Woodcrest Station in Cherry Hill to the westbound one, which he said he believed meant Patterson was trying to stay on the train longer than his ticket allowed. Patterson, 48, of Philadelphia, said he had accidentally boarded a train in Camden going the wrong direction and got off at Woodcrest to switch directions and catch a train home to Philadelphia.
“He shouldn’t have messed with me to begin with,” Patterson said.
The Delaware River Port Authority, which has oversight of PATCO, suspended Fiocca and has referred the May 3 occurrence to the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office for investigation, officials said. DRPA officials said they could not comment because of the continuing investigation.
Police documents state Fiocca followed Patterson to the westbound platform about 7:45 p.m. and asked for his ticket. Patterson responded angrily, according to the report, but showed the officer his ticket, which was not for Woodcrest Station, and then showed him identification. Throughout, Patterson argued with the officer and used profanity, the report says.
Fiocca tried to arrest Patterson. Patterson argued and said he wasn’t going anywhere, according to the report. As the two argued, Fiocca threatened to pepper-spray Patterson if he did not allow himself to be placed under arrest. Patterson was not cooperating, so Fiocca sprayed him in the face, according to the police report. Patterson stood up and blocked his face.
The officer described Patterson as “much larger than me in stature and weight,” so he started hitting him in the legs with a police baton. Patterson is described as backing away from the officer, continuing to say he was not under arrest. The officer noted Patterson’s eyes were still open, so he pepper-sprayed him again.
According to the report, the officer got Patterson to sit on a bench and again tried to arrest him, but Patterson pulled away. He struck Patterson in the legs with the baton repeatedly, and Patterson stood and lost his balance, falling onto the tracks. Patterson tells a slightly different tale, saying he fell onto the tracks after being pepper-sprayed the second time.
Fiocca ordered power to the tracks cut, the report says, and Cherry Hill police officers who had just arrived helped lift Patterson off the tracks.
Patterson was taken to Kennedy-Stratford Hospital and was released with a citation for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
Patterson, who is out of work on disability, said he has severe bruising on his legs from being hit by the baton and intended to sue PATCO police.