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Former Enfield councilman's wife plans to sue town over police use of force in arrest

Journal Inquirer
By: Jonathan M. Stankiewicz
Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2014 10:36 am

ENFIELD — A former councilman's wife has filed a notice of intent to sue the town, Police Department, and four police officers, including embattled Officer Matthew Worden, claiming that the excessive force used in arresting her in 2011 caused extensive injuries.

Barbara Crowley, wife of five-term former Councilman Patrick Crowley, said Wednesday that she suffered multiple injuries, including a fracture and torn ligaments in her right leg, and torn tendons and a torn ligament in her right elbow when she arrested by Worden and three other officers on Dec. 14, 2011.

Barbara Crowley is the fifth person since late July to file a notice of intent to sue the town and Police Department based on a claim that Worden used excessive force on them in unrelated incidents.

Worden, a 10-year veteran of the Police Department, was placed on paid administrative leave in May following a claim by Mark Maher of Windsor that he was the victim of police brutality when Worden arrested him on April 1. The police internal affairs investigation into that incident is ongoing. Maher later filed a notice of intent to sue the town, Police Department, Worden, and one other officer, who is unnamed. Crowley, 50, said she had to have her elbow surgically reconstructed, as well as surgery on her left knee, which she had injured while overcompensating for her right leg's injury. She said that since the incident she missed a total of seven months at her job as a nurse at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford.

Crowley was arrested in an incident at the Mount Carmel Society's Banquet Hall on Park Avenue, where she was charged with second-degree breach of peace, interfering with an officer, and assault on a police officer.

In June 2012, the charges against her were dismissed after she successfully completed three months of probation in the accelerated rehabilitation program, which is for first offenders.

Hartford lawyer A. Paul Spinella, who represents all five individuals who've filed intents to sue the town and police, called Crowley's case shocking.

"This is tantamount to someone pulling a woman who ran a bake sale out of her car and nearly beating her to death," Spinella said. "This was truly a terrible event." In the notice filed by Spinella, Crowley claims that she suffered many injuries, including "emotional trauma and psychological injury" and "multiple contusions and injuries involving both arms, legs, back, neck, and head."

The notice names Worden, Police Chief Carl Sferrazza, the Police Department, Officer Jason Rutovich, Officer Jaime Yost, an unnamed member of the Police Department, and the town as "persons responsible for damages."

On the day of the incident, Crowley said she had stopped by the banquet hall to pick up some balloons that had been left from a youth football event the night before. "It's not uncommon for me to use either the front or back doors," Crowley said, adding that she had worked several banquets and fundraisers at the hall before the incident. Crowley said she entered the hall — where bingo was about to start — and asked a woman if she could go to a closet to retrieve some leftover balloons. The same woman then confronted Crowley in the closet, saying the group had left a mess the night before.

"I know that we cleaned everything," Crowley remembered.

After leaving the building, Crowley said she decided to go through a back door, to talk to a member of the Mount Carmel Society that she knew.

Crowley said the woman then called police and said Crowley was now "trespassing." "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Crowley said.

Worden was among the first officers to arrive at the banquet hall in response to the incident, she said.

"They come in and Worden starts talking to me and asking me questions," Crowley said. "He kept asking me question after question and was interrupting me."

She said Worden shrugged after she asked if she could check on her young son, who had been waiting outside in her car. As Crowley began walking to the door, she said Worden snapped her right arm behind her, tearing tendons and ligaments, and told her she was resisting.

Crowley said another officer came over after Worden asked for help and kicked her right knee out, tearing ligaments, while a third officer pinned her to the ground by putting a knee in her back.

"I asked for a medic and they said they were going to take me down to the station," Crowley said, adding that the officers refused to get her a medic until her third request. As officers were carrying her outside the banquet hall, Crowley's husband, who was then a councilman, arrived and demanded that she be let go.

She was then transported to Johnson Memorial Hospital and Medical Center in Stafford and then brought to the police station.

Sferrazza declined comment Wednesday when questioned about the Crowley's arrest and her notice of intent to sue, citing pending litigation. He said Crowley has not filed a police brutality complaint in connection with the incident. But police will conduct an internal affairs investigation into her incident because it's department policy to do so anytime there's a notice of intent to sue.