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Subway rider sues for $3M after arrested, sprayed going down 'up' stairway

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Subway rider sues for $3M after arrested, sprayed going down 'up' stairway

BY JOHN MARZULLI

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

 

Thursday, November 13th 2008, 4:00 AM

 

 

DelMundo for News

 

Naeema Screven, 22, was a victim of police brutality after she was arrested in a Brooklyn subway station.

 

A Queens woman who was pepper-sprayed for dashing down an up-only subway staircase is suing the city - and the cop who hauled her away in cuffs - for $3 million.

 

Naeema Screven says she was only trying to catch her train, which was pulling into the station, when she zipped down to the A line platform at the Broadway station in Brooklyn.

 

One side of the stairway was designated "down" and the other side "up," the complaint filed in Brooklyn Federal Court said.

 

The "down" side of the stairway was crowded, so she admits she crossed under the yellow tape to the "up" side.

 

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When she reached the platform, she was stopped by Officer Elix Hernandez and asked to show identification.

 

When she was told she was being arrested, the suit says, she flipped open her cell phone to call her mother and was doused in the face with pepper spray and handcuffed.

 

"I think if I did something wrong he could have given me a warning," Screven, 21, told the Daily News. "I never thought in a million years that something like that would happen to me."

 

Police say the problem wasn't that she flipped open the phone - the problem was she flipped out.

 

"She began to yell and scream, causing public alarm," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne.

 

"The woman then started swinging her arms, preventing the officer from handcuffing her. The officer used pepper spray to aid in effecting the arrest," he said.

 

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Screven was charged with disorderly conduct and spent 15 hours in a police lockup.

 

The suit claims she was falsely accused of knocking over other straphangers. Running down an "up" staircase created a "dangerous condition," Browne said.

 

Nonsense, said Screven's lawyer, Alan Levine.

 

"It was absolutely wrong that he used this type of force and overreacted for violating a Transit Authority rule. TA rules of conduct say it is a violation to interfere with access onto or off of an escalator, stairway or elevator," Levine said.

 

Screven said the incident has left her emotionally scarred.

 

Her mother and sister are court stenographers in Queens Criminal Court, and she was raised to respect the law, she insists, but her trust in the NYPD has been shaken.

 

"I'm afraid of him [Hernandez], and I'm afraid of stepping foot in that station," she said.

 

Screven had filed a complaint against the cop with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, Browne said, but the officer was exonerated regarding the use of pepper spray.

 

Her "allegation that she was thrown to the ground was unsubstantiated," he added.

 

jmarzulli@nydailynews.com

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