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Enfield Council Settles Two More Police Brutality Lawsuits

By MIKAELA PORTER mmporter@courant.com
Published: October 4, 2016

An eighth lawsuit has been filed against the town, police department and several officers alleging police brutality and excessive force during an arrest.

Town councilors in a close vote Monday night settled two police brutality lawsuits nearly a month after settling another brutality lawsuit. Both lawsuits name former Officer Matthew Worden and allege that he used excessive force when interacting with three men – one from Hartford and two from Enfield.

            Councilors voted 6-4, with Mayor Scott Kaupin, Democratic minority leader William "Red" Edgar, and Democrats Elizabeth Davis and Ed Deni voting against; Democrat Tom Arnone did not attend the meeting. The resolution authorized CIRMA, the town's insurance carrier, to settle the cases with an undisclosed payment. Officials said they could not provide the cost because it was part of the agreement.

            Before each vote, Edgar and Davis said they would vote no because the cost of the settlement was not made public. Deni said he voted against it because it was a cost to the town. Kaupin said he didn't agree with the insurance carrier's process and decision to not cover the town if it wanted to go to trial. He called his no vote a "protest vote."

            Several councilors who voted for the settlement agreement said they were reluctant to support it.

            Town Attorney Christopher Bromson said the town would pay a deductible. If the town were to disagree with the recommendation from the insurance carrier, the carrier would not provide coverage and any attorney fees or incurring costs associated with the lawsuit would be paid for by the town, Bromson said.

            Also during Monday night's meeting, councilors unanimously approved a three-year contract extension between the school district and the Enfield Teachers' Association, from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2020. On Sept. 13, the board of education unanimously approved the contract extension with the district's approximately 450 certified teachers.

            The two lawsuits, one from Eric Avalos of Hartford, and a joint lawsuit from Ronnie and Frank Salas, of Enfield, were filed by Hartford attorney A. Paul Spinella.

            Avalos filed a civil lawsuit in July 2015 against the town, police department and several officers, including Worden, alleging that Worden used excessive force during a February 2014 arrest at the Holiday Inn in Enfield.

            Avalos and his brother were asked to leave the Holiday Inn that night, after hotel staff told them that they were being too loud, according to the lawsuit. Worden arrived and asked for Avalos' ID. In Worden's report, he said Avalos "became belligerent." According to the lawsuit, Avalos "attempted to comply" but when he reached for his ID Worden "suddenly and without provocation sprung forward and forcefully grabbed Avalos' arm, twisting it behind his back and causing Avalos severe pain."

            Worden used a Taser on Avalos, once when Avalos was standing up and several times when he was on the ground in handcuffs, according to the lawsuit.

            Avalos was charged with interfering with an officer, resisting arrest, second-degree breach of peace and first-degree criminal trespass.

            The Salas brothers lawsuit stemmed from an incident in late December 2011 outside the CVS Pharmacy on Hazard Avenue.

            Ronnie Salas alleges that Worden punched him and smashed his head into a police car door frame during his arrest, according to the suit. His brother, Frank, lost his two front teeth after Worden slammed his head into the pavement, the lawsuit alleges.

            Ronnie Salas was charged with interfering with an officer, assault on a police officer and second-degree breach of peace. Frank Salas was charged with second degree breach of peace and interfering with an officer. All charges were eventually dropped.

On Aug. 29, the town council voted 10-1 to settle a lawsuit filed by Mark Maher of Windsor. His was the first of 11 lawsuits filed against the town, which ultimately led to Worden's dismissal as a police officer.

Worden was fired in October 2014, but in February 2015 the town changed his status to resigned.

Courant staff reporter Dave Altimari contributed to this story.

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