WATCH: Jury Quickly Convicts State Trooper Who Kicked Handcuffed Harrisburg Activist in the Face

17 Feb 2017

Suspended state Trooper Ryan Luckenbaugh didn’t have to wait long Friday to learn his fate for kicking a handcuffed Harrisburg activist in the face.

It took a Dauphin County jury just 45 minutes to convict him of simple assault and official oppression.

And Senior Deputy District Attorney Stephen Zawisky said he’ll probably seek jail time when Judge Scott A. Evans sentenced the 37-year-old Mechanicsburg man in April.

State Trooper Ryan Luckenbaugh was convicted of assaulting Harrisburg activist Christopher Siennick, shown above, and trumping up charges against Siennick after a May 2015 confrontation in the city.
Christopher Siennick, the recipient of the kick Luckenbaugh landed on May 16, 2015, had a one-word reaction to the verdict.

“Cowabunga!” he said.

Luckenbaugh showed no visible reaction when the verdict was read, but afterward could be seen slightly shaking his head.

During the four-day trial, Zawisky insisted that Luckenbaugh and his partner, Trooper Michael Trotta, had no just cause to arrest the 27-year-old Siennick after he flipped them the middle finger as he rode his skateboard against traffic on North Second Street.

Luckenbaugh kicked Siennick as he sat handcuffed on a curb after the troopers chased and Tased him and hit him with pepper spray. The incident was filmed by the dash camera in Luckenbaugh’s police cruiser, which also recorded Siennick angrily cursing the cops and calling them “Nazis,” “storm troopers” and “pigs.”

Zawisky said Luckenbaugh then had Siennick jailed for two weeks on trumped-up charges. Siennick was freed when the DA’s office began investigating the incident. Several Harrisburg police officers who witnessed the kick testified against Luckenbaugh at his trial. One called Luckenbaugh’s action “appalling.”

Defense attorney Edward Spreha argued that the kick was a reaction, but not a criminal act on Luckenbaugh’s part after Siennick spit at him. He said Luckenbaugh didn’t lie on Siennick’s arrest affidavit, but recounted the incident to the best of his recollection.

Luckenbaugh was suspended by the state police without pay because of the incident. Trotta was later fired for other misconduct.

Zawisky praised the jury’s verdict, but said he is also “kind of conflicted” given the collateral damage Luckenbaugh’s actions might cause.

“This conviction is a black eye for law enforcement,” Zawisky said. “It’s making my job harder. It’s making the job of every police officer on the street harder.”

The charges on which Luckenbaugh was convicted carry penalties that could range from probation to prison time, he noted. “My approach right now is that Chris Siennick spent two weeks in jail on (the false) charges and that may be appropriate” for Luckenbaugh, Zawisky said.

Siennick, meanwhile, is pursuing a federal civil rights lawsuit over the incident.