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Bridgeport Police Shown In Video Are Subjects Of Separate Brutality Complaint

By DAVE ALTIMARI, daltimar@courant.com

The Hartford Courant

5:41 PM EST, January 29, 2013


— Two of the three police officers shown apparently beating a man in a video at Beardsley Park are the subject of a pending police brutality complaint filed by a disabled man.

On May 23, 2011, three days after the Beardsley Park beating reportedly took place, Officer Christina Arroyo stopped Ramon Sierra for questioning, Sierra claims in a letter that he wrote to Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. seeking an investigation.

Another officer, Elson Morales — who is one of the officers identified in the Beardsley Park videotape — soon arrived at the scene at the corner of Boston and Noble avenues.

Sierra said that, without warning, Morales "put his hands on me, and I asked him what he was doing."

"The next thing I knew, Officer Morales and an officer later identified as Officer (Joseph) Lawlor both threw me violently to the ground, and on the way down, the left side of my face struck one of the police cars on the scene, causing a bad laceration," the complaint states.

Lawlor is also identified in the Beardsley Park videotape.

Sierra said that one of the officers then told him to put his hands behind his back, but because he has limited use of his right arm, he was unable to do so. Sierra said that he is disabled and is partially paralyzed on the left side as well as having limited mobility on his right.

"I told the officers this, but they continued to assault me violently, finally handcuffing my hands in front of my body,'' Sierra wrote in his letter to Gaudett.

Sierra was transported to the hospital and later charged with interfering with a police officer and assaulting a public safety officer. His criminal case is pending at Superior Court in Bridgeport.

Sierra filed a civilian complaint in October 2011. That complaint is pending. Sierra has been interviewed twice by the department's internal affairs office, including once with his attorney, Sally Roberts of New Britain.

Bridgeport police spokesman William Kaempffer confirmed Tuesday night that an internal affairs investigation is pending and said the department would not comment.

Morales and Lawlor are two of the officers seen in the video showing police apparently stomping on a man in Beardsley Park, which surfaced on YouTube a few weeks ago. It was taken by an unknown person in the park on May 20, 2011, according to Robert M. Berke, the Bridgeport lawyer representing Orlando Lopez, 27, who says that he's the man the officers assaulted.

In a federal lawsuit against the officers dated Sunday, Lopez charged that the "physical assault by the defendants" resulted in him sustaining severe pain, a laceration of his lip requiring several stitches resulting in a scar, bruises on his body and face, and a fracture to his hand.

The third officer in the park video is Clive Higgins. All three men are on desk duty pending an investigation of that incident, police said.

Sierra's complaint also lists Officer Paul Scillia, who was recently disciplined by Gaudett and removed from the department's emergency services unit for refusing to take a drug test, and Arroyo, police said.

Both Lawlor and Arroyo are defendants in a pending federal police brutality case filed against the police department by William Feliciano. That lawsuit alleges that following a car chase in December 2010, several Bridgeport police officers beat him while he was on the ground, breaking his jaw in three places.

The lawsuit names seven officers, including Lawlor and Arroyo, but does not specify who participated in the alleged assault.

Roberts, Sierra's attorney, has filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint against the police department, claiming that it has stalled the investigation into Sierra's complaint. In filing the complaint, Roberts included Sierra's initial letter seeking the investigation as well as correspondence with police and city attorneys.

"Mr. Sierra is tired of the games the department is playing in blatantly stalling on this matter, and requests that this information be provided ASAP,'' Roberts wrote in a Dec. 9, 2012, letter to Sgt. Tjuana Bradley-Webb, the internal affairs officer assigned Sierra's complaint.

Five days later, Roberts filed the freedom of information complaint, alleging that the department was "blatantly stalling."

"The department is well aware of Mr. Sierra's pending criminal matter and naturally, will do everything possible, in coordination with the prosecutor, to prevent Mr. Sierra from gaining access to the [internal affairs] case," Roberts wrote.

The FOI Commission has not yet set a date for a hearing on the matter. Roberts could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Following the release of the Beardsley Park video, Gaudett ordered an internal investigation of the incident and also referred the matter to the state's attorney's office for review.






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