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Penn State, State Police Sued Over Response to 2018 Tailgate

by on June 29, 2020 1:58 PM

A New York couple has file a lawsuit against Penn State, its police department and Pennsylvania State Police over their response to a Beaver Stadium tailgate party that drew national headlines in 2018.

William Deegan and his wife, Cathleen, say in the lawsuit filed on Thursday that he sustained permanent injuries when he was kicked in the head by a police horse at the tailgate. The lawsuit, filed by attorney Jeffrey Rosenbaum, claims negligence and assault and battery by each of the defendants.

University and state police deployed mounted units and a low-flying helicopter to break up what they said was an "unruly" crowd at "a large-scale party that was getting out of hand," on Sept. 29, 2018 in Lot 23, prior to the Penn State football game against Ohio State. The incident gained notoriety when video showed the helicopter send tents, grills and other debris flying through the air.

The Deegans were attending the tailgate with their daughter when, according to the lawsuit, officers arrived in pursuit of an unidentified individual. After the individual was subdued, mounted police moved into the area.

William Deegan says one of the horses kicked him in the head from behind, causing him to fall onto a vehicle and suffer injuries to the head, chest, ear, ribs, eye and abdomen, among others.

Penn State and the police department failed to properly secure the area and properly train the officers and horses, Rosenbaum wrote. Mounted police were used "in a situation where it was unsafe and unnecessary to do so," the 11-page complaint alleges.

“The defendants knew or should have known that a dangerous situation could arise on the aforesaid premises,” Rosenbaum wrote.

The Deegans are seeking unspecified financial compensation. William Deegan has experienced financial loss and pain and suffering as a result of the injuries, Rosenbaum wrote.

Police previously said the organized tailgate — which charged $10 for entry and access to alcohol, food and cigarettes — grew to about 600 people. Two horses were assaulted and one state trooper was injured, police said at the time.

Four people were charged with selling alcohol to minors and one person was charged with taunting a police animal for allegedly striking a horse.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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