A Long Island man who was shot in the face by an off-duty officer has sued the NYPD for $35 million.
According to the New York Post, the lawsuit stems from a March 5 incident in which the plaintiff, Rinaldo Laviolette, tried to enter a detective’s home. Laviolette told authorities he attended a house party that night and accidentally left with someone else’s wallet and phone. The 27-year-old, who admitted to being intoxicated at the time, said he decided to go back to the residence to return the items, but ended up going to the wrong home.
Police say Laviolette showed up at Det. Douglas DeOtto’s house at around 3:30 a.m. and made several attempts to open the locked front door. DeOtto said he woke up after hearing loud banging, and was convinced someone was trying to break in. He eventually confronted Laviolette outside his home and an argument ensued. Moments later, the off-duty detective opened fire on Laviolette, and shot him in the right eye.
According to the lawsuit, the shooting left the man with brain damage, a “shattered” skull, and a “permanently scarred” psyche. He has since had multiple surgeries and now lives with a titanium plate in his head.
“The bullet basically demolished and disfigured the entire side of his face,” Laviolette’s attorney, Daniel Solinsky told the Post.
The plaintiff argues he “posed no threat to anyone” and “had made an obvious mistake” on the night of the shooting. The suit states DeOtto “knew or should have known that there was no reasonable basis for the use of such force.”
“How the heck was Detective DeOtto to figure that out in the wee hours of the morning, when this person’s at his door?” said James Moschella, a Detectives Endowment Association attorney, told the outlet. “… [DeOtto] was more than reasonable in concluding that this individual was not going to stop until he was inside his house, and could only assume the worst at that time with a wife and two small children upstairs. This individual has no one to blame but himself for his actions that night.”
Laviolette says he hasn’t been able to find work since the incident and is now stuck with high medical bills. He is seeking $25 million in damages and $10 million punitive damages. DeOtto and the City of New York are listed as co-defendants.