‘It was a horrid thing’: Woman sexually assaulted by Wilmington police officer speaks out

Tyneka Cephas (center) spoke out for the first time about the sexual assault she endured from a uniformed Wilmington police officer. She's suing the city over the incident. (Zoom screengrab)

Tyneka Cephas (center) spoke out for the first time about the sexual assault she endured from a uniformed Wilmington police officer. She's suing the city over the incident. (Zoom screengrab)

Former Wilmington Police Cpl. Thomas R. Oliver Jr. was sentenced to a year of probation in October after being convicted of official misconduct.

Oliver had been accused of forcing a woman to perform oral sex after stopping her on a city street in October 2018.

Thursday morning, the victim, Tyneka Cephas, spoke publicly about the incident for the first time.

“It was a horrid thing,“ she said. “He treated me as if I was a prostitute.”

Cephas and police at the time said Oliver called her into his marked police vehicle after pulling up next to her on East 9th Street.

She was in Wilmington to visit the grave of her daughter Tynesia, who was fatally shot in 2017 when she was just 16 years old.

“I had just come up here from Georgetown, Delaware, because it was my daughter’s 18th birthday. She was a victim of gun violence and we were celebrating her birthday at the gravesite,” Cephas said.

Cephas had a warrant out for her arrest, and Oliver told her that he would let her leave if she performed oral sex on him. He grabbed her by the head and forced her onto his exposed penis.

Oliver, who had been a member of the Wilmington police force for 11 years, was acquitted in October of second-degree rape, sexual extortion, and having sex with a person in police custody. He was found guilty on one charge of official misconduct.

Cephas is now suing Oliver, Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy, and Mayor Mike Purzycki.

Her lawyer Emeka Igwe says the lawsuit against the city is an effort to hold Oliver, as well as the department and city leaders accountable.

“It’s all undisputed,” Igwe said. “The officer does not dispute that this horrible incident took place while he was in uniform in his patrol car and he’s even admitted that it was wrong and he’s apologized to Ms. Cephas in court, but yet, the mayor of Wilmington and the police chief have yet to reach out to Ms. Cephas.”

The lawsuit also accuses the city of not providing the proper training or policies to help prevent officers from abusing their power in this way again.

Cephas said she hopes that by speaking out, it will encourage anyone else who experiences similar abuse to be strong.

“I just hope this don’t happen to nobody else and if it does, I hope they can bring it forth, because when people are in power and have authority, people don’t believe us,” she said.

Spokesmen for both Purzycki and Tracy said they were unable to comment on a pending lawsuit. They pointed back to the department’s original statement after the incident in 2019, in which Tracy called the charges against Oliver “deeply troubling and disheartening.”

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