Hot water, pepper rubbed on genitals, man wins $.3M against cops
It’s a financial victory for 27-year-old Ralph Andrew Lewis who won $310,000 against the state for assault and battery and false imprisonment charges. The judgement was delivered by Master Sherlanne Pierre in the Port of Spain High Court on May 26, 2020.
Though he won the lawsuit, his psychological well-being may never be the same.
The incident occurred on February 24, 2015, when the Sangre Grande man visited the police station in his area to turn himself in. Lewis had been involved in a car accident and failed to report it. He was accompanied by his mother and other relatives for moral support.
Unknowing to him was the fact that he was wanted by police who seized the opportunity. The man was placed in a charge room without being told why he was detained and subsequently placed in a jail cell for two days.
In his signed statement, Lewis told the court that on February 26, 2015, he was taken to the Sangre Grande CID on the same compound, by an acting corporal. On arrival, he was questioned about a housebreaking which he vehemently denied.
Seven policemen were reportedly called and Lewis was beaten with a PVC pipe and WASA hose. He fell to the ground and was cuffed and kicked by those sworn to protect and serve. Asked again, he denied knowing anything about larceny. According to his recount of the situation, this was the moment things took a sharp turn for the worst.
Lewis said his feet were handcuffed by officers who beat him mercilessly. A woman police constable standing nearby suggested using hot water to encourage him to talk. She was then seen walking to the fridge. Moments later, and to the then 23-year-old’s alarm, a microwave was turned on. While being punched and kicked, his pants were pulled and the WPC poured hot water on his bottom. It burned his scrotum and penis in the process.
The WPC allegedly yelled for the cup to be refilled and proceeded to repeat the process while Lewis screamed in agony. The Sangre Grande man fell in and out of consciousness as the third cup was poured. When he came to, he called out for the Inspector who told him to disclose what he knew to the officers.
Desperate to have them stop, Lewis shouted that the policemen should visit his friend’s house who lived in the area. To his dismay, the torture continued as the WPC proposed that pepper be rubbed on his genitals next. She went to the fridge, put on gloves and rubbed the pepper sauce on the man’s penis which was already burnt by water.
Just before, an officer allegedly said, “we going to put pepper sauce on your tool and put it on YouTube and call it pepper penis.” The said officer took pictures before throwing him back into a cell. The lawmen then left to find the friend he mentioned but turned up empty.
While stuck in his cell, and with his penis feeling as though it was on fire, Lewis said he stripped his clothing and started yelling. After being momentarily ignored he was taken back to the Sangre Grande CID.
The man claimed he was told by one of the cops that he would be framed.
"You know your mother can’t afford a lawyer so it’s cocaine, ammunition and larceny charges we going to give you.”
He said he was kneeling on the floor while the acting corporal mentioned earlier, smeared pepper sauce on his face. He also alleged that a statement was written and one of the officers tried to force him to sign a confession which he refused.
After being placed in a cell again, Lewis complained about pain and discomfort and was taken to the Sangre Grande Hospital. On arrival, he was transferred to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex where he was handcuffed to the bed and under police guard.
Lewis spent seven days in the hospital and was treated for six to seven percent superficial thickness burns to the bilateral gluteal region, perineum, scrotum and penis. He was subsequently referred to the plastic surgery outpatient clinic. He said he couldn’t sleep well and was in constant pain. His mother had to help him change his dressing and urinating was difficult.
To date, he still feels pain in his groin and penis and has difficulty having sexual intercourse. This has spurred confidence issues as a result which he said caused his girlfriend to leave him. Lewis added that he is terrified of the police.
“When I see police officers I think that they would try to kill me. I am living in extreme fear.”
Currently, the Sangre Grande man is a witness against the 12 officers who were charged with misuse of public office, assault and occasioning actual bodily harm, beating by assault, misbehaviour in public office and perverting the course of justice. He is behind bars accused of larceny and until now, had no money to access bail.
Lewis was represented by senior attorney Lemuel Murphy and Alexia Romero.