HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – There was no sex. But there were lies, according to prosecutors, and videotape, in the preliminary hearing of Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Ryan Luckenbaugh.
Luckenbaugh is charged with official oppression and simple assault after prosecutors say he beat Harrisburg’s Chris Siennick last May along Restaurant Row.
Stephen Zawisky, Dauphin County’s senior deputy district attorney, played dash camera video from the incident in court. He says it shows Siennick, handcuffed, seated and surrounded by police officers, when Luckenbaugh kicks him in the face. Siennick had already been maced and Tasered.
Zawisky also said Luckenbaugh trumped up charges against Siennick – that led to a couple-week stay in the Dauphin County Prison – and signed off on the falsified report.
“We demand more of law enforcement officers,” Zawisky said after the two-hour hearing. “Especially this day and age with video and audio, we just demand more. You can’t lose your cool. You can’t kick somebody in the face when they’re handcuffed on the ground.”
Luckenbaugh did not comment following the hearing but his attorney, Ed Spreha, promised a vigorous defense. Spreha raised concerns about an eight-minute gap in that videotape.
“There’s a lot more to the story,” Spreha said. “There’s a lot more that occurred. Unfortunately, you were only given a glimpse of what happened that night.”
Siennick, who did not appear at Monday’s court proceeding, said he was skateboarding when Luckenbaugh and Trooper Michael Trotta rolled by in a PSP cruiser and called him a slur. He said he responded with a hand gesture. Siennick said the troopers drove around the block and came after him. They said he spit on them. Siennick denies that.
The prosecutor confirmed for ABC27 that Harrisburg police officers did get a glimpse of Luckenbaugh’s actions that night and were so disturbed by what they saw they complained to superiors.
“Christopher Siennick isn’t completely innocent,” Zawisky said. “He absolutely should not have been skateboarding in the street, could’ve conducted himself differently that night, but that’s no excuse for the allegations in this case in which Trooper Luckenbaugh kicked him in the face and then lied on the Affidavit of Probable Cause. We need to hold everyone accountable including law enforcement.”
Spreha sees it differently. He insists Siennick deserved to be arrested and should not have resisted. He also says Luckenbaugh’s charges against Siennick were appropriate. But does he deny that his client kicked a handcuffed and defenseless suspect in the face?
“The video shows that the sole of the boot was placed in that direction,” Spreha said.
Zawisky said prosecutors are sympathetic to the difficulties of law enforcement and the split-second, life-and-death decisions they must make every day. But in this case, Luckenbaugh crossed the line.
“We would not have filed the charges if we didn’t think this went beyond the pale,” Zawisky said.
Luckenbaugh is suspended without pay. His formal arraignment is next month.
Siennick is pursuing a civil lawsuit.
Video from the police dash camera was released Monday by the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office.
WARNING: The video may be inappropriate for some viewers.