Deputy fights crime with a lawsuit against store owners

An attorney says it’s the first time a law officer has used the civil courts to crack down on a crime problem.

By Christopher Quinn

An Orange County deputy sheriff injured during an arrest at a convenience store two years ago sued the store owners Thursday, saying the site was a hangout for criminals but the owners did nothing to shoo them away.

The lawsuit is unusual because a law enforcement officer is using the civil court system to crack down on a crime problem, said Russell Troutman, attorney for detective Robert Corriveau.

“The whole purpose of law enforcement bringing suit against wrongdoers is to send a message to the criminal community that not only will they be held criminally accountable, but civilly accountable as well,” Troutman said.

According to Corriveau’s lawsuit, deputies were called to the Big B Food Store, 900 Ivey Lane, 385 times in 1990 and 1991, handling such offenses as conspiracy to commit murder and disorderly conduct.

In March 1991, Corriveau was a drug agent and was arresting a suspected crack cocaine dealer outside the store, which detectives said is known for curbside drug sales.

The suspect tried to flee, but Corriveau grabbed his shirt, catching his pinkie in it. The suspect lurched, and Corriveau’s pinkie snapped. The suspect punched Corriveau in the face.

Corriveau needed surgery to repair his finger, and he lost some use of it. In his lawsuit, he said the owners of the business and the land were negligent because they did not employ security or other safeguards.

“It should be a shock to Orange County that one little old convenience store could have this many calls for service,” Troutman said.

The lawsuit does not involve the store’s current owners.

The defendants are Ozell and Mary Johnson, who own the building and land, and Suleiman K. Solomon, who leased the site and owned the business. Solomon has since sold the company. The defendants were not available for comment.

Troutman has represented law enforcement officers in lawsuits against criminals. Last year he won a $1.1 million judgment against a man who threw a chunk of concrete at a Kissimmee police officer. Last year he negotiated a settlement of more than $1 million with a Tampa landscaping company. A driver for the company, while drunk, crashed into an Orlando police officer in 1990, ending the officer’s career.

The Orlando Sentinel
Fri., June 11, 1993

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