The Manchester Police Department will pay $20,000 for seizing the phone of a bystander who was filming a fight two years ago at the West Side 7-Eleven, the ACLU-New Hampshire announced Thursday.

The payment goes to Neil Pineda-Landaverde, whose arm was twisted and iPhone taken by police after he refused to turn it over, according to his lawsuit. The phone contained about eight minutes of video that captured police efforts to quell a brawl, according to the lawsuit.

“If the police want to seize a bystander’s phone, the answer is simple — get a warrant,” said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the ACLU-NH.

“We don’t typically comment on the settlement of cases and that will be the same in this instance,” wrote Lt. Matthew Barter, the chief of staff for Police Chief Allen Aldenberg, in an email. He said the decision was made after consulting with the city solicitor.

Bissonnette said public recordings of police activities have been instrumental in ensuring transparency and accountability, and the right to record such activity is enshrined in the First Amendment.

“Actions like this from law enforcement can instill fear in people simply wishing to exercise their constitutional rights. We are hopeful that this settlement will cause police departments to think twice before seizing a bystander’s cell phone without a warrant after recording the police,” he said.

According to the lawsuit, police told Pineda-Landaverde that they needed his phone because it contained evidence and he was hindering a criminal investigation. In their response to the lawsuit, lawyers for the city said Pineda-Landaverde posed a threat.

Pineda-Landaverde did not get his phone back for two months. The incident took place in October 2019, just a few months before Manchester police started fitting officers with body cams.

It is at least the fourth payment over the last four years that the city has paid out to settle civil rights violations:

In 2019, Manchester paid Free Keene activist Christopher Waid $15,000 after arresting him while he filmed a Manchester police DWI checkpoint in 2017.

In 2017, Manchester paid $89,000 to a panhandler whom police ticketed. She claimed First Amendment violations.

That same year, Manchester police paid $275,000 to a man they arrested as he filmed a police raid on his home in 2015.