Video: Meriden Officer Punches, Tasers Man On Ground
Security Tape Part Of Civil Lawsuit Against Police Department
6:21 PM EDT, April 24, 2012
A hospital security videotape shows a Meriden police officer, under federal investigation for police brutality, throwing several punches at a man already on the ground and then shocking him with a Taser while another officer held the man down.
The security videotape of the Jan. 23, 2011, incident in the parking lot of MidState Medical Center has been produced as part of a civil lawsuit filed by Joey Bryans against the Meriden Police Department and, specifically, Officer Evan Cossette.
Cossette, whose father is Police Chief Jeffry Cossette, is under investigation by a federal grand jury probing charges of police brutality. Bryans has testified before the grand jury about the incident at the hospital. An internal affairs investigation was conducted, but Bryans' complaint was dismissed. It is one of three brutality complaints against Evan Cossette in a little more than a year. He has received a written reprimand for one of them.
The videotape, which is grainy and out of focus at some points, raises questions about Evan Cossette's written police report about the incident. Bryans was at the hospital because he had cut his left hand on a beer bottle while celebrating his 30th birthday party.
In his lawsuit, Bryans said he had been waiting for more than an hour for treatment when he decided to go outside and smoke a cigarette. On the video, a nurse can be seen following him out the door and trying unsuccessfully to grab him by the shirt.
As Bryans walks outside into the freezing night air wearing only a white T-shirt, the video shows the nurse getting on her cellphone to call hospital security. Evan Cossette and another Meriden officer, Mark Nowak, were at the hospital finishing a different call. The security video shows them going after Bryans — Nowak on foot and Cossette in a police cruiser.
Cossette pulls the cruiser in front of Bryans and gets out, with Nowak on the left side of Bryans and Cossette on the right. Just as some activity occurs, the video camera goes out of focus and moves away from the scene.
When the video comes back into focus on the incident about 10 to 12 seconds later, Bryans is on the ground and Cossette's right arm can be seen punching him at least five times while Nowak is grabbing Bryans' legs.
The video then shows Cossette moving in front of Bryan and reaching to his belt for his Taser. He then shocks Bryans twice, the first time for nine seconds and the second time for four seconds, police records show.
Cossette then stands up and puts his Taser away. The elapsed time between when Evan Cossette pulled his cruiser in front of Bryans and he stood up after Tasering him is 53 seconds, according to the real-time clock on the videotape. Two hospital security guards, who headed out to Bryans and the two officers, veer off and stand at a distance when they see the officers battling with Bryans.
In his report of the incident, Cossette said that Bryans was running away from the hospital. In the video, Bryans is walking to a far parking lot of the hospital. Bryans has said he was walking off the property toward the state police complex to smoke because there was a sign in the emergency room door that there was no smoking on hospital grounds.
In his report, Cossette said that both he and Nowak gave several verbal commands to Bryans and that he grabbed Bryans by the right wrist to prevent him from escaping. Cossette then reports that Bryans "tensed his arms and body up, forming fists and maintaining an aggressive fighting posture." Further, Cossette said in his report that Bryans "spun around and engaged him in a physical altercation." Cossette said that Bryans ignored several more verbal commands and that he "was forced to bring him to the ground."
Cossette said that when they got Bryans on the ground, he tried to "post-up" with his right arm to continue the fight so he delivered several "closed fist strikes" to Bryans' torso.
The videotape does not include any audio and part of the incident after Cossette first grabs Bryans is either too blurry to distinguish anything or not in view of the camera. When it does come back into view, Bryans is on the ground and Cossette can be seen throwing punches at him.
The gap in the video between when Cossette first grabs Bryans and when he can be seen clearly punching Bryans on the ground is about 12 seconds — meaning that all of what Cossette described in his report from issuing verbal commands to Bryans' "aggressive fighting posture" to his "posting-up" occurred in that 12-second window.
The two officers then handcuffed Bryans and walked him back into the hospital. The whole incident, from when Bryans walked out of the hospital until he was brought back in handcuffs, was slightly more than four minutes.
James Tallberg, Cossette's attorney in the civil cases, declined to comment Tuesday on the video.
Bryans was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. He filed an internal affairs complaint against Evan Cossette, but then-Internal Affairs investigator Sgt. Leonard Caponigro ruled that Cossette had not violated any police procedures. Caponigro, who retired and has since died, did not obtain a copy of the hospital security tape as part of that investigation.
Bryans is one of three people who have sued the police department and Evan Cossette on charges of police brutality. The others are Pedro Temich, who was injured when Cossette pushed him backward in a holding cell at police headquarters where he hit his head on a concrete bench, and Robert Methvin, who claimed that Cossette struck him with a knee in the mouth while he was down.
Tallberg has dismissed the accounts of all three of the men, claiming that they were all drunk at the time and not reliable witnesses and that Cossette did not violate police procedures in any of the cases.