(Reuters) - The town manager of Seabrook, New Hampshire, fired two police officers on Wednesday for roughing up a man at the town’s police station, an incident that drew scrutiny after surveillance footage of the incident was posted online earlier this year.
The town manager, William Manzi, also demoted a police lieutenant for not properly reviewing and reporting the incident.
The video shows a skinny, shirtless Michael Bergeron being escorted by two police officers down a hallway. One of the officers, Mark Richardson, holds him forcefully by the arm and swings Bergeron into a concrete wall, which he hits head first. A few moments later, while Bergeron is on the ground, Officer Adam Laurent sprays him with pepper spray.
The incident took place on Nov. 11, 2009, after Bergeron, then 19, was arrested for driving while intoxicated.
Following the posting of the video, the officers were placed on leave and the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation. Richardson was indicted on one count of simple assault. His trial is scheduled to begin in November.
The town hired an independent investigator to review the incident and its report was made public on Wednesday, the same day that Manzi, in consultation with the town’s selectmen and police chief, announced the disciplinary actions against the officers.
Richardson and Laurent were dismissed. Lieutenant John Wasson, who was a sergeant and supervising officer the night of the incident, was demoted to patrolman.
A year after the incident, Bergeron’s mother went to the station to complain to Wasson about her son’s treatment. Wasson never filed a complaint, the report states, or alerted his superiors.
Richardson told the investigator he was “in fear” of Bergeron and that he put him against the wall to get “a better defensive hold” on him, according to the report. Laurent said he sprayed Bergeron because of “his failure to comply with anyone’s orders” and his “prior spitting.”
The fired officers could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Bergeron is currently serving time in prison for unrelated burglary and assault charges brought after the police station incident.
Reporting by Ted Siefer in Lowell, Mass.; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney