Jury deadlocks over paralyzed man's lawsuit against Camden County police

CAMDEN - A federal jury has deadlocked over a lawsuit brought by Xavier Ingram, a former city man who claimed he was paralyzed during a June 2014 arrest by Camden County Police Department officers, according to attorneys in the case.

U.S. District Judge Juan Sanchez declared the impasse Tuesday after both sides had clashed sharply in a weeks-long trial over an incident that left Ingram a quadriplegic.

Police alleged Ingram, then 21, slipped and injured himself while running from officers on a rain-slicked street near 7th and Chestnut streets in Camden.

Ingram contended an officer, Jeremy Merck, stepped on his neck after he fell, causing his paralysis. He asserted two other officers — Nicholas Marchiafava and Antonio Genetta — assaulted him and then mishandled him after his injury.

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An image from a surveillance camera shows the scene at 7th and Chestnut streets where Xavier Ingram was paralyzed after fleeing from Camden County Police in June 2014.
An image from a surveillance camera shows the scene at 7th and Chestnut streets where Xavier Ingram was paralyzed after fleeing from Camden County Police in June 2014.

But Ingram’s lawsuit contends Camden County Police Department Officer Jeremy Merck stepped on his neck after he fell, causing injuries that left him a quadriplegic. It alleges two other officers — Nicholas Marchiafava and Antonio Genetta. — assaulted Ingram, then mishandled him after his injury, worsening his condition.

The night-time incident was recorded on a grainy surveillance video.

The two sides also differed over whether Ingram had dropped a gun and was in possession of drugs before fleeing from officers.

Another point of dispute: Then-Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson one day after the arrest said Ingram's "tragic injury appears to be an accident of his own accord," and that police had "displayed composure" and sought medical assistance for the injured man.

Ingram's lawsuit contended that comment and other actions by law enforcement officers were part of a civil conspiracy to cover up police wrongdoing.

But Camden County spokesman Dan Keashen asserted Ingram's claims were "pure fiction and most of this jury saw that this case included absolutely no physical activity from the officers after the suspect fell and was tragically injured."

"The facts still remain crystal clear that CCPD officers pursued Xavier Ingram because they saw him hiding a gun on the ground between two parked cars in a high-crime area. While running away from officers representing the agency, and without being touched by a police officer, Ingram fell on wet asphalt and severely injured himself," Keashen said in a statement.

He also noted unanimity is required to reach a verdict in a federal jury trial "and we strongly believe this jury was deadlocked because one or more jurors held out."

“We look forward to retrying this case in court and putting these frivolous claims to rest once and for all," said William Tambussi, an attorney for the county.

Beth Baldinger, a Roseland, Essex County, lawyer representing Ingram, had noted the apparent impasse Friday when she asked the judge to allow a partial verdict in the case.

Baldinger said that option, "should the jury continue to be deadlocked," would secure a "just, speedy, and inexpensive determination" of this action.

Ingram's legal counsel — attorneys Beth Baldinger and Cory Rothbort of Roseland, Essex County — addressed the case's outcome in a statement Wednesday.

"Looking at their statements, Camden County attended a different trial," it said. "The jury was clearly with Plaintiff — except for a holdout or two. Despite their boastful comments that 'most of the jury' sided with them, the Defendants refused to waive unanimity and agree to our proposal to accept a verdict of 7-2 or 8-1."

"Clearly, the Defendants feared that over a majority of the jury was not buying the Defense efforts to gaslight them into believing that a healthy 20-year old could suffer catastrophic neck injuries described as a near 'internal decapitation' resulting in quadriplegia simply by falling on his backside from 3 feet," it continued.

"The objective, credible medical evidence — as testified to by nationally renowned experts in orthopedic surgery and biomechanics, confirmed Mr. Ingram’s injuries were the result of Camden County Police Department officers forcefully putting a knee in Mr. Ingram’s neck and then stepping down on his neck."

"This may have been one of the most one-sided cases our firm has ever tried," the statement said. "We look forward to the retrial."

Ingram, currently a resident of a Hammonton nursing facility, testified from a hospital bed during the trial, which began Feb. 28.

Jurors began deliberations on March 23.

The jury considered claims that included excessive force, the failure to provide adequate medical care, and the county's failure to adequately train and supervise its police officers.

In the wake of the trial, Keashen asserted Camden County's police department "has one of the most aggressive accountability and oversight professional standards bureaus in the nation."

He said the county prosecutor's office reviews all excessive force complaints for criminality "and exactly three were filed by the public last year."

Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other beats for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.

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This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Xavier Ingram, Camden County police split over paralysis claim