At Heart Of Brutality Lawsuit
By: DAVE ALTIMAR
Published: May 1, 2015
A Hartford man has filed a federal lawsuit, claiming he was the victim of police brutality when an officer punched him in the face and pulled him from his vehicle seconds after he drove into his condominium parking lot.
Jeffrey Sweet alleges his nose was broken during the Oct. 13, 2013, arrest, which was captured on a security camera at the Woodland Street complex.
The lawsuit, filed recently in U.S. District Court in New Haven, names three Hartford officers — Garrett Fancher, Gregory Corvino and Det. Christopher Reeder — and six unidentified officers.
In a police report, Fancher acknowledges punching Sweet in the face as "pain compliance" to get him out of his SUV. Hartford attorney A. Paul Spinella, Sweet's attorney, called the incident "horrifying."
"At worst this was a case of running a traffic light. It is something you would get a ticket for not a beating," Spinella said.
The video, obtained by The Courant from Spinella, shows Sweet pulling into the lot in his SUV with Massachusetts plates. Sweet lived in the condominium at the time.
The video shows that within seconds of Sweet pulling in, an unmarked police car pulled behind him and four officers exited the car with guns drawn. The officers were part of the city's shooting task force and were on patrol in the area when a call came over the radio that officer Lara Traczynski was pursuing a gray SUV that failed to yield to her cruiser after she activated her emergency lights, the police report states.
Traczynski indicated by radio that she was no longer pursuing the car because her cruiser got a flat tire, the report states. Sweet's SUV pulled onto Woodland Street from Niles Street, where the officers picked up the chase, the report indicates.
The video shows four officers approaching the vehicle, opening the two front doors and pulling Sweet out and placing him face down on the pavement.
By then a second cruiser arrived and at least six officers huddled around the prone Sweet. An officer can be seen placing his knee near Sweet's head as he is handcuffed.
The lawsuit alleges Sweet suffered a broken nose from a punch by one of the officers. The video does not capture the punch, which is described in the police report by Fancher.
"Corvino and I were able to pull Sweet from the driver's side vehicle but were unable to secure him, as he had a tight grasp on the seat belt with his left hand," Fancher wrote.
When Sweet disobeyed an order to let go of the seat belt, Fancher wrote, he gained control of the situation "by means of pain compliance."
"I struck Sweet in the right side of his face with a closed left fist," Fancher wrote."This blow was immediately effective as Sweet released his grip and fell to the ground."
Sweet was handcuffed and placed face down against the hood of the cruiser. By then more officers had arrived including one with a dog used to sniff for drugs. The dog went through Sweet's SUV but no drugs were found.
Sweet was charged with failure to obey a traffic signal, failure to obey an officer's signal, reckless driving and interfering with a police officer. He received medical treatment at St. Francis Hospital.
All of the criminal charges were dropped by prosecutors, according to Spinella.
Spinella disputed the police report indicating that Sweet was trying to evade police, adding he pulled into the parking lot where he lived.
"You wouldn't expect to have a gang of police officers jump out at you for a traffic stop," Spinella said.
Sweet did not file a complaint with the police department.
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