Three officers from the Seabrook Police Department in the state of New Hampshire have been placed on paid administrative leave after surveillance camera footage from a violent 2009 encounter made its way to YouTube this week.
The internet video uploaded on Monday depicts cops from the small New England town slamming a local man face-first into a cinderblock wall as they attempt to move him down the corridor of a jail facility. A surveillance camera near the scene of the incident also caught one officer discharging his pepper-spray at the man while he is on the ground and just barely out of sight.
Michael Bergeron of Seabrook, NH posted the video to YouTube earlier this week, and writes in the accompanying description that he was the man maced by the police. According to Berg, the footage of November 2009 incident was uncovered by attorney he hired two years ago after the altercation but ultimately “disappeared” until recently.
Bergeron writes on YouTube that he was in police custody at the time of the incident after being arrested for driving while intoxicated.
“[A]fter being in the cell for a while [waiting] for a bail bonds man I was taken out and brought in the booking room to call for a ride,” he wrote. “[A]fter calling a ride I was told I could take my phone that I called from and my wallet. [A]s soon as I [grabbed] my wallet from the table [the] officer with the glasses came at me saying he never told me I could take my stuff and choked me against the wall, then tried to grab the wallet from my pocket.”
Bergeron says the three-and-a-half-minute video shows the altercation that occurred immediately after. Officials in Seabrook say there’s more to the story, though.
On Tuesday, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported that police considered Bergeron to be aggressive and uncooperative during a drunken rage that occurred before they entered within view of the camera’s lens. A police report filed at the time by Officer Adam Laurent and obtained by the Leader says “Bergeron was an emotional rollercoaster” while being booked, and that he had been stripped of most of his clothes while in custody because he allegedly attempted to stuff his shirt down a jail cell toilet. Officers also accused him of spitting in his cell, a concern that they later cited as a reason for using what some now say is excessive force.
According to the paper, Laurent said Bergeron became angered after the incident with his cell phone and was told to walk back to his cell but refused. The filing goes on to say that Officer Mark Richardson attempted to escort Bergeron back to his cell, and he “appeared to perform an arm bar” on the detainee.
Laurent's description of the altercation between Bergeron and the cinder brick wall differs greatly from what the video depicts.
"Bergeron fell to the floor again and crawled on all fours, not responding to Officer Richardson's orders,” Laurent wrote in the report. “Due to Bergeron's prior spitting and failure to comply to anyone's order as he was on an emotional rollercoaster I pepper-sprayed him as he looked back at us in the hallway," the Union Leader quotes from his report.
After, he said, Bergeron appeared “apologetic.” That might no longer be the case, however, as he writes on YouTube that he will soon be talking to a new lawyer about the altercation.
According to Bergeron, there is a “permanent lump” on the back of his head because of the incident, and he has suffered from chipped teeth and supposed brain injuries.
The New Hampshire Attorney General Office is reportedly now investigating the matter and may pursue criminal charges pending the result of their investigation. Seabrook Police Chief Lee Bitomske has suspended three officers this week that are believed to be involved in the incident, and is expected to make a statement on Wednesday afternoon about the investigation.