More than 30 Connecticut police officers are under investigation for use of excessive force after a dash cam video recorded many of them beating a suspect on the ground with their batons. Community leaders in Hartford became especially upset when a police sergeant could be seen in the newly released video kicking a handcuffed suspect in the head for no justifiable reason.
On June 4, Hartford police began pursuing a stolen Toyota Camry driven by Ricardo Perez. According to police, Perez struck Hartford Det. Samuel Cruz during the pursuit and damaged several patrol cars before officers were able to deploy stop sticks to incapacitate the Camry.
Although police have accused Perez and his passenger, Emilio Diaz, of resisting arrest after the chase, a police dash cam video released on Wednesdayappears to show one of the suspects on the ground while surrounded by multiple officers. The man remains on the ground as several officers kick him and strike his body with batons.
Police have not determined whether the man in the video is Diaz or Perez. With his hands cuffed behind his back, the suspect remains kneeling on the grass a few minutes later when Sgt. Sean Spell abruptly stomps the back of his head without provocation.
Hartford Police Chief James Rovella and the office of the chief state’s attorney opened separate investigations into the incident after reviewing Diaz and Perez’s disturbing mug shot photos. Diaz appears stained in blood with a large gash across his forehead, while Perez also seems to have a fresh head wound with his left eye swollen shut.
Thirty-one officers from Hartford PD, West Hartford PD, and the Connecticut State Police are under investigation for allegedly using excessive force against Diaz and Perez after the pursuit. Sgt. Spell retired in August after serving 20 years on the force and currently does not face criminal charges for blatantly kicking a handcuffed man.
“I don’t think any type of use of force like that is warranted, especially when you have a person pinned to the ground as well as handcuffed,” City council President Thomas Clarke told the Hartford Courant after watching the video. “At the point of being handcuffed, there should be no type of reaction from the officer to the person that’s being handcuffed.”
“At the end of the day, when you’re handcuffed, that’s when they have to understand – halt,” City Councilman James Sanchez stated. “They have this dramatic car chase. I understand the adrenaline. But at the end of the day, they’re handcuffed. At what point do [the police] stop? Our officers are supposed to be professional.”
While the office of the state’s attorney investigates allegations of excessive force committed by Spell and the arresting officers, Diaz and Perez face multiple charges including drug possession and resisting arrest. Perez has also been charged with assaulting an officer.
“We believe that my client will ultimately receive justice in a court of law,” Diaz’s attorney, Corey Brinson, told Fox61. “These officers do not reflect the majority of police officers who serve and protect with integrity and honor every day. My client continues to suffer physically and emotionally from this horrific event but he believes that changes to the police department will be forthcoming as a result of this incident.”