Lawsuits Allege DC Apartment Complex, Security Firm Failed to Stop ‘Overly Aggressive' Special Police Officer

Three D.C. residents are suing a local security company, an apartment complex and its management company over the alleged actions of one special police officer and what the lawsuits claim was a failure to stop his "overly aggressive" behavior.

"We want to do something right now to stop this before it gets worse," said attorney Dawn Jackson, who represents all three plaintiffs.

On Monday, a News4 I-Team investigation featured people upset with how they say that officer treated them and how they could not get anyone to hear their complaints.

Officer John Simon is a special police officer, who was licensed to carry a gun and make arrests while on the property of the Frederick Douglass Garden Apartments in Southeast D.C. when he was assigned to protect it.

In 2017 and 2018, Simon had each of the plaintiffs charged with assaulting him. Prosecutors later dismissed those cases. In all three, a witness recorded cellphone video depicting a portion of the encounter.

"I just want justice to be served," Tawonna Bunn told the I-Team.

Bunn and the other plaintiffs each spent a night in jail and had to appear in court.

Each encounter started with the officer trying to remove the plaintiff or a loved one that he believed shouldn't have been on the property.

"I know as police officers, [they] have the duty to use reasonable force,” Jackson said. “But I think that we make a case for excessive force in these incidents."

The lawsuits claim the Frederick Douglass apartment complex; its management company, Edgewood Management; and A&D Security Consultants, which employed Officer Simon, all should have taken action sooner.

"The tenants have complained," Jackson said. "I think we will be able to show that notice was given but nothing was done."

One of the security company's owners, retired Metropolitan Police Department Officer Benjamin Ashe, failed to show up for a scheduled interview with the I-Team last month. Simon drove away when the I-Team tried to speak with him.

Two of the plaintiffs, Anton Reid and Amin Wilson, say they have permanent physical injuries. All three plaintiffs told the I-Team they were traumatized by Simon's actions.

"It's hurtful. We have some clients that had children that witnessed the assault, witnessed their parents being taken away," Jackson said.

Kelvin Ross, who is not involved in the case, said he spends many days outside his mother's house, directly across the street from the apartments.

Ross told the I-Team he has witnessed several encounters involving Simon.

"Pepper spray comes out right away,” he said. “You don't have a chance to do nothing but take off or let him attack you. So most of them run."

The lawsuits allege Simon filed "false police reports" saying that the three plaintiffs assaulted him, when he actually assaulted them, and that the companies were negligent in failing to intervene when residents complained.

All three plaintiffs also told the I-Team they had trouble filing complaints with MPD's Security Officers Management Branch, which is tasked with investigating and disciplining special police officers.

"And they were told that they could not [file complaints] because of the relationship that this [security] company has with the Metropolitan Police Department," Jackson said.

Following the I-Team's first report, a D.C. councilman announced he is considering legislation to have the independent Office of Police Complaints handle the investigation of special police officers like it does for complaints against MPD officers and Housing Authority police officers.

According to D.C. records posted online, Simon no longer works for A&D Security. However, the I-Team has since observed him arriving outside the office, wearing a uniform and carrying a lunchbox.

"We do believe he's still working and he's still at subsidized housing complexes," Jackson said.

A spokesperson for Edgewood Management told the I-Team A&D Security no longer has the security contract for Frederick Douglass Garden Apartments, although she would not say whether that decision was related to these incidents.

Neither A&D Security nor Edgewood Management would comment on the lawsuits.

The plaintiffs hope telling their stories will make a difference.

"It could happen to somebody else, and before it does, I want it stopped," Bunn said.

Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Rick Yarborough, shot by Steve Jones and Jeff Piper, and edited by Jeff Piper.

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