NEWPORT, Del. — The first time Nigel Sykes tried to get money from the Seasons Pizza restaurant, he did it with a gun, forcing his way into the business through the back door.
This time, Sykes is trying to get money from the pizzeria by suing the employees who tackled him and wrestled his gun away during the robbery.
Sykes alleges assault in a federal civil complaint claiming the rough treatment was "unnecessary" and that as a result of the injuries he suffered during his attempted hold-up, he is due over $260,000.
Sykes also claims in his suit, filed without an attorney, that after employees subdued him, two Newport police officers improperly used stun guns on him and denied him access to medical attention.
Normally lawsuits like this are tossed out after a brief review by the court. And while U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson tossed out several of Sykes' claims, she allowed the case to move forward against the pizza employees, two arresting officers and Seasons.
Officials with Seasons declined comment but Newport Police Chief Michael Capriglione said, "It is a joke lawsuit."
"It is sad to see this kind of suit being looked at. The court shouldn't waste the taxpayers' money," he said.
Sykes, 23, of Wilmington, filed his federal civil action in 2013 from prison, where he is serving a 15-year sentence for robbery and attempted robbery.
In his self-written complaint, Sykes admits, "I committed a robbery at Seasons Pizza" on Maryland Ave. on Nov. 30, 2010, just before 8 p.m. He admits he "displayed" a handgun and that an employee —a delivery driver and one of the named defendants — "handed me $140."
He says he then started to make his way forward in the store when a different employee grabbed him from behind and other employees wrestled the gun from him, with at least one shot being fired during the struggle.
"That is when the assault began," according to Sykes' suit. "All of the Season's Pizza employees participated in punching, kicking and pouring hot soup over my body. I was unarmed and defenseless and had to suffer a brutal beating by all of the employees of Seasons Pizza," he wrote, adding the beating knocked him unconscious.
In Sykes' first 2011 complaint, which is significantly different than the most recent one, he claimed an unknown person robbed him at gunpoint "and then forced me, after giving me a gun, to (rob) a nearby Seasons Pizza."
"I complied with his commands and proceeded to rob the establishment." he wrote in 2011, adding he informed employees that he was being forced into the hold-up by someone outside.
In that account, which was tossed out on procedural grounds, Sykes also claimed employees beat him with pots and pans, rendering him unconscious and described the beating as "unnecessary."
Sykes claims in both suits, "I was aroused from my state of unconsciousness, only to realize that I was handcuffed and being tasered," by the police. He concludes by alleging the officers denied him needed immediate medical attention for the burns and stun gun wounds and other injuries for eight hours. And one officer used a racial slur, he wrote.
Sykes demands $20,000 each from six Seasons employees, $20,000 from each of the two arresting officers and $100,000 from Seasons.
Employees at Seasons remember the robbery and said one employee was shaken up by it for a long time. In the restaurant's kitchen, they still have a trash can that was hit by a bullet from Sykes gun and someone wrote the name of the employee who was narrowly missed by the shot over the bullet hole.
Attorneys for the two Newport police officers recently filed a response to the suit, seeking to have it tossed out on statute of limitations grounds.
At the time of his 2010 arrest, police said Sykes was linked to at least eight other robberies including a bank, three other pizzerias, two fast food restaurants and two convenience stores.
Sykes pleaded guilty in New Castle County Superior Court in July 2011 to five counts, resolving some 51 charges against him including counts related to the attempted robbery at Seasons and the Sept. 2010 robbery of a WSFS Bank. A Superior Court judge then sentenced him in April 2012 to 15 years for robbery, attempted robbery and three weapons counts.
Shortly after entering his plea, Sykes attempted to withdraw it claiming in a motion that he had not taken his medication that day. Both the Superior Court and the Delaware Supreme Court denied the request, citing the fact that Sykes attorney said on the day of the plea that Sykes had no mental issues and was not on medication.
In his motion, Sykes also wrote that he should be allowed to take back his plea because, "I'm not good at making good choices."