A Pittsburgh, Pa. landlord claims in a new lawsuit against the City and two cops that an arresting officer connected to an incident dating back to Dec. 2017 violated her constitutional right to “criticize the police and express political views and affiliations.”
The story goes that Darian Balcom was accused of breaking into a nearby building to steal cats. She claimed, on the other hand, that a friend asked her to feed abandoned dogs and that she found the cats at the same location. Although Balcom was charged with serious felonies like burglary, theft and criminal trespass, the charges would eventually be dropped.
Balcom alleges officer Gabe Figueroa admitted she “had not done anything wrong” but expressed that he “intended to arrest her because she had ‘sassed’ the officers.”
What might this “sassing” have entailed? According to Balcom, Figueroa asked her if she supported President Donald Trump and alleged that he called her a “bleeding heart liberal” at one point.
“She responded that she was not a Trump supporter,” the lawsuit claimed. “Defendant Figueroa told Ms. Balcom that he was glad Trump had won the election.”
These remarks were purportedly uttered as Balcom claimed that she was helping helpless animals.
But Balcom said that this wasn’t the only problem with her encounter with law enforcement. Balcom claimed that she objected to Figueroa referring to her as “sweetheart,” thereby alleging that gender discrimination was a factor in the arrest. After all, she said, Figueroa admitted she was being arrested because she “sassed” officers.
Another officer, identified only as John Doe, allegedly witnessed all of this. This officer was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Law&Crime has reached out to Balcom’s attorney Margaret Coleman for comment on the case and she provided the following statement:
Arresting a citizen because of her support, or lack of support, for a particular party, candidate or elected official is contrary to basic principles of American democracy. It is a gross abuse of power for a police officer to punish a citizen for exercising her constitutional right to express political views and criticize the government. Ms. Balcom should be commended for her courage in filing this lawsuit to draw attention to her experience. Hopefully this lawsuit will send a message to other police officers that we will not permit them to abuse the powers we have entrusted to them.
Balcom herself stated that “Any abuse of power by a police officer is unacceptable.”
“These officers’ actions constitute a threat to freedom and democracy which harmed not only me, but our entire country,” she said. “It is my duty as an American to file this lawsuit and I am filing it in honor of my uncle, US Air Force Col. Ralph Balcom, who disappeared on May 15, 1966 fighting against the tyranny and oppression these officers’ actions represent.”
Neither the City nor the accused officer have commented on the lawsuit, citing policy against doing so.
Read the full lawsuit below.
(H/T New York Post)
Editor’s note: this story was updated after publication to add statements from the plaintiff and her lawyer.
[Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]