A Beverly business owner is suing the city and a local police officer, alleging that the officer aimed his service weapon at him without cause during a traffic stop in October 2010, according to court records.
In the civil complaint filed last week in federal court in Boston, Erich Prinz of Boxford alleges that Officer Erik Abrahamson, who is engaged to Prinz’s former wife, illegally detained him by pointing his gun at Prinz’s head during the stop. Prinz’s former wife is a member of the Beverly force.
Beverly Police Chief Mark Ray said in a recent e-mail that Abrahamson was cleared after a thorough department investigation into the incident.
“Officer Abrahamson was found to have acted appropriately and consistent with department policies,” Ray wrote.
Abrahamson declined to comment because the civil case is pending. His union lawyer, Bryan Decker, said his actions were justified.
“Officer Abrahamson, while directing traffic at a construction site, did draw his weapon during his interaction with Mr. Prinz, after Mr. Prinz’s actions put him in fear for his safety,” Decker wrote in an e-mail. He declined to elaborate on Prinz’s behavior during the stop.
“Other officers immediately responded to the scene (Officer Abrahamson called for backup prior to his use of force),” Decker wrote. “The department conducted a full investigation and found that Officer Abrahamson’s use of force in drawing his weapon was appropriate and that he was fully justified in doing so.”
But Prinz gives a different account of the incident in his civil complaint.
According to the filing, he learned about two years before the traffic stop that his then-wife was romantically involved with Abrahamson, and the couple later divorced.
Abrahamson was working a traffic detail on Route 1 in Beverly on Oct. 5, 2010, when he stopped Prinz and demanded to see his license, according to the complaint. The men exchanged words and Prinz attempted to comply by taking his wallet out of his jacket pocket, which is when Abrahamson drew his gun, according to the filing.
“Abrahamson continued to point the weapon at [Prinz] while glaring at him in an intimidating and threatening fashion for several minutes,” the complaint states.
Additional officers arrived at the scene and persuaded Abrahamson to put his gun down and leave the area, and they also allowed Prinz to leave, according to the complaint. Prinz owns the North Beverly Food Mart , records show.
Decker said Abrahamson, who has been on the force for at least a decade, is the former union president and is highly regarded.
“He’s active in the community,” Decker said . “He’s well respected. He’s a stand-up guy.”
Prinz could not be reached for comment.
His lawyer, Michael Brodigan, said by phone that he plans to call officers who responded to the traffic stop as witnesses, should the civil case proceed to trial.
Decker said Prinz appears to be trying to address issues related to his divorce in the federal court system.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Prinz is attempting to turn a probate court matter into a federal civil rights lawsuit,” Decker said. “We think that’s inappropriate.”
Brodigan rejected that assertion, stating that his client was divorced in 2008, well before the 2010 traffic stop.
“It has nothing to do with any probate court action,” Brodigan said.
Brodigan said Prinz filed the lawsuit nearly two years after the traffic stop because of various legal requirements.
Prinz also alleges in the federal complaint that other members of the Beverly police force tried to intimidate him before and after the divorce. Ray, the police chief, did not address that allegation.
“We will be able to respond further once the city has received official service [of the complaint] and there has been an opportunity to conduct a review,” Ray wrote.