Pittsburgh, PA – A Pittsburgh landlord has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city, alleging that an officer arrested her because she is not support President Donald Trump.
Darian Balcom said that the Pittsburgh Police Officer Gabe Figueroa also referred to her as “sweetheart,” and called her a “bleeding-heart liberal,” according to the federal lawsuit filed on Thursday, KDKA reported.
In her lawsuit, Balcom claimed that Officer Gabe Figueroa violated her equal protection and free speech rights.
Balcom, who owns a small Brighton Heights apartment building, said that the incident occurred in December of 2017, after she went into a home across the street to rescue some dogs at the request of the homeowner.
The dogs had been abandoned at the house by one of her neighbor’s tenants, she said.
While she was there, Balcom also spotted two cats, and took them all home with her, the New York Post reported.
In the meantime, someone contacted the Pittsburgh Police Department (PPD) to report that someone had broken into the building where Balcom had picked up the animals, KDKA reported.
“Suddenly, there were many police officers in my building,” Balcom told the news outlet. “Apparently [the police] were told there was a burglary in process.”
At one point during his conversation with Balcom, Officer Figueroa allegedly called her “sweetheart,” she said.
“I responded, ‘don’t call me sweetheart,’ because I thought it was just being very disrespectful,” she told KDKA.
She then asked Officer Figueroa whether or not “he was performing his duties in accordance with his training,” the lawsuit read, according to the New York Post.
At that point, Officer Figueroa allegedly asked Balcom if she supported President Donald Trump.
“She responded that she was not a Trump supporter,” the lawsuit said. “Defendant Figueroa told Ms. Balcom that he was glad Trump had won the election.”
She claims that Officer Figueroa told her that she “had not done anything wrong,” but that he was going to arrest her anyway “because she had ‘sassed’ the officers,” according to the lawsuit.
Balcom’s friend and associate, Matthew Grebner, said he witnessed the exchange between her and the officer.
“He said she hadn’t really done anything wrong but she sassed the police,” Grebner claimed. “‘She was just trying to help out animals, but she’s a bleeding-heart liberal. She can’t sass the police so she’s getting arrested.’”
Balcom was charged with felony criminal trespassing, felony burglary, and misdemeanor theft by unlawful taking, the New York Post reported.
The charges against her have since been dismissed, according to the lawsuit.
Balcom alleged that Officer Figueroa violated her constitutional right to “criticize the police and express political views and affiliations,” the New York Post reported.
Referring to her as “sweetheart” was gender discrimination, she added.
“I think the entire situation could have been avoided if Officer Figueroa had basic respect for Ms. Balcom and for her fundamental constitutional rights,” her attorney, Margaret Coleman, said in an interview with KDKA.
“He should not have called her ‘sweetheart,’” Coleman railed. “That’s not an appropriate way for an officer to address a member of the public.”
“It was very frightening,” Balcom added.
Coleman also said that Officer Figueroa was there to investigate a crime, and that politics should not have been discussed at any point.
Officer Figueroa arrested Balcom in “retaliation” for her beliefs, Coleman alleged.
The purpose of the lawsuit is to “send a message to other police officers” that citizens will not “permit them to abuse their power,” the attorney added.
“Even beyond the harm to me, it is very frightening for our country I think, if it’s even possible here, in the United States, to get thrown in jail because of who you vote for or don’t vote for,” Balcom lamented. “I was always taught that that simply does not happen here, but apparently it does.”
Officer Figueroa said he was not allowed to comment on the pending lawsuit due to department policy and procedure, the New York Post reported.
The city also refused to comment on pending litigation.