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Enfield Officer Target

Of Another Brutality Complaint
Published: 4:28 PM EDT, August 5, 2014

A man who claims he was the victim of police brutality when he was shot with a stun gun multiple times by officer Matthew Worden has filed a notice of intent to sue the town.

Eric Avalos is the second person in the last few weeks to allege brutality against Worden, who is currently on administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation into that complaint.

Avalos was arrested on Feb. 22 while he was attending his niece's Sweet 16 birthday party at a local Holiday Inn. Avalos became unruly at the party and had been drinking, the arrest report states. Worden arrived he initially refused to give the officer his identification, according to the arrest report.

A cruiser video of the incident obtained by The Courant from Avalos' attorney shows Avalos walking toward a car with Worden, his Taser drawn, behind him. Avalos appears to reach his arm out. As he did, Worden fired his Taser, the video shows.

As Avalos falls to the ground the video camera can no longer pick up what is happening. Officers can be heard yelling for Avalos to stop resisting. The video also picks up the sound of the Taser being deployed at least one more time.

Several members of Avalos family can be seen watching the incident and yelling at police to get off Avalos. A woman, identified in a complaint filed by Avalos's sister as the suspect's mother appears to take a few steps towards where the officers have their son on the ground. The video shows her holding a crutch over her head before another family member takes her away.

Avalos was charged with breach of peace, criminal trespassing and interfering with a police officer. He is next scheduled to appear in Enfield Superior Court on Aug. 14.

His sister, Elizabeth Lopez, filed a complaint with the department four days after the incident. In Lopez said "she witnessed the mishandling and unjustified arrest of Eric Avalos."

Lopez wrote that after her brother was hit with the stun gun "the officer who tased him jumped him and knocked him onto the floor and then put his knee into his head and continued to tase him several times." Police records show that Worden is the officer who fired the Taser at Avalos.

Enfield Police Chief Carl Sferrazza said police reviewed videos that captured the incident the next day and contacted Lopez and told her they needed to speak with her brother.

"We did an initial review of the videos and nothing jumped out at us," Sferrazza said. "But you could only see a portion of what happened because part of the incident is not on tape and that means finding and interviewing witnesses. The case is not closed. We will do an internal affairs investigation but we have to prioritize cases and the other one has top priority."

The other investigation involves a complaint filed by Mark Maher of Vernon following his arrest at the town boat launch on April 1.

Maher has alleged that Worden struck him multiple times in the face while he was on the ground or being held by another officer. A notice of intent to sue the town also has been filed in that case.

Hartford attorney A. Paul Spinella is representing Avalos and Maher. Spinella said in the Avalos case the fact that the whole incident took place in front of his family made it even more shocking.

"This particular case is compelling and alarming not only because of the history of the officer involved but also because it is a clear case of excessive force that took place openly in front of his family and friends," Spinella said.

Worden has been the subject of 14 internal affairs investigations over the past seven years, department records indicate.

Copyright © 2014, The Hartford Courant