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Micklovich alleges Manchester police violated his rights beating him outside Strange Brew Tavern

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 02. 2012 11:33PM
Christopher Micklovich is shown a police booking photo after the incident at the Strange Brew. 

CONCORD - A Manchester man, injured when arrested by four off-duty Manchester police officers outside a downtown bar two years ago today, has filed suit, alleging police violated his federal civil rights when they beat him, causing injuries so severe he now has metal plates in his face.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in January, Christopher Micklovich says that only two people interviewed by police and the Attorney General's office - out of a combined total of about 30 witnesses - had no connection to him, the police department or the Strange Brew Tavern where the March 3, 2010, incident happened.

Those two witnesses, cab driver Christopher Wade and bar patron Erin Moul, who had stepped outside to have a cigarette, both corroborated Micklovich's account and told investigators they thought the officers were going to kill him, according to the lawsuit.

Police Chief David Mara would not comment about the lawsuit, deferring to the city's attorney, Robert J. Meagher of Manchester. The police department, in its response, denies the allegations.

"Look at the Attorney General's report," Meagher said. "That was a really exhaustive investigation - a couple thousand pages and the result was there was no wrongdoing found on the part of the police department."

Last May, Attorney General Michael Delaney cleared the four off-duty police officers - Lt. Ernest Goodno, and Officers Jonathan Duschesne, Michael Buckley and Matthew Jajuga - but said it was not the department's "finest hour." Their actions, he said, were justified under the laws of self-defense, defense of others and use of physical force by law enforcement.

At the time, he released a 92-page report of the incident as investigated by New Hampshire State Police. In it, investigators discounted what Wade, who called 911, reported, saying he was the only person who reported off-duty officers kicked Micklovich.

"The lack of corroboration for the taxi driver's statement carried significant weight in our analysis," the attorney general's report said.

The four officers were never charged criminally, but three were suspended without pay for an undisclosed amount of time. Goodno retired before disciplinary action could be taken, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says that on the night of the incident Micklovich met his friend, Louis Milonas, for dinner and the pair then met up with two other friends, Christopher and Kenneth Clark, at a nearby bar to play pool before going to the Strange Brew.

Shortly after arriving there, Micklovich was thrown out of the bar and given no explanation for it. The Attorney General's report said Micklovich uttered a racial slur in the men's room, leading to his ejection.

Strange Brew owner Mitch Sawaya and bouncers Justin Henderson and Kiman said Micklovich refused to leave peacefully after he was ordered to do so.

They said a panel was damaged as Micklovich fought the effort to eject him and then he refused to leave the alley outside. Sawaya said Micklovich said he had friends inside the bar and he was going to go back inside. He refused to leave the area when told to by Sawaya, the bouncers and the four off-duty officers.

In his lawsuit, Micklovich says Sawaya never asked the four off-duty officers for help or said he was in any actual or potential danger from Micklovich. Sawaya later told police he was "waiting" for Micklovich to make a move because he was a "fourth-degree black belt."

Outside the bar and in the alley, police said Micklovich was confrontational, disorderly and tried to start a fight with another patron.

Micklovich says in the lawsuit that he never tried to re-enter the bar, but police say he wanted to go back inside to get his shoes - which fell off when he was being ejected - but the bouncer prevented him from entering.

Jajuga told Buckley to call the police station, but Goodno stopped him saying, "Don't worry about it. You don't need to call."

Then, Duschesne allegedly grabbed Micklovich and pushed him into a car saying, "I've had enough of this." Immediately, Goodno, Buckley, Duschesne and Jajuga grabbed Micklovich, picked him up in the air and "dumped him to the ground," according to the lawsuit. Buckley and Jajuga secured his body while sitting on top of him, pinning him to the ground in a "hog tie."

While on the ground, Micklovich says Buckley punched him at least five times in the ribs.

Police said he used five "short strikes" to the torso to try to get him to release his arms that he had tucked under his body.

According to the suit, Jajuga applied a pressure point to Micklovich's jaw while Duschense struck him multiple times in the face after he was on the ground. Police said that only happened after Micklovich hit Duschense and only one blow landed.

Moul said Goodno punched Micklovich between 10 and 25 times in the face after he was on the ground. Police said Goodno never hit Micklovich.

According to the lawsuit, Micklovich's arms were behind his back, he was "totally immobile," not struggling and unable to protect himself when the four officers repeatedly and violently struck him.

Blood was pouring out of his face, Moul said, and several onlookers became concerned police would not stop beating him until they killed him.

Several witnesses tried to intervene and the off-duty officers told them not to get involved because they were the police. Moul, concerned for Micklovich's safety, yelled for someone to call police. One of the police officers yelled back at her that they were "the f---ing police," according to the lawsuit.

Wade got out of his cab and told them to leave Micklovich alone. One of the officers told him to "mind his own business." Wade said Micklovich did not make any aggressive moves before the officers attacked him.

Wade ran back to his cab and called 911.

On-duty officers arrived and an ambulance was called to the scene but police said Micklovich repeatedly refused treatment.

He was beaten so badly he suffered serious injuries including fractures to the left side of his face and eye socket, according to the lawsuit. His injuries required surgery and the insertion of metal plates to repair the damage.

Micklovich was charged with four misdemeanors, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, simple assault on Duschesne and resisting arrest, charges the city solicitor later dropped. Micklovich maintains the charges were brought to harass and intimidate him and conceal the officers' wrongful conduct.

Goodno, according to the lawsuit, tried to take control of the investigation that night, even though he was off-duty and had consumed alcohol. Sgt. Jamie Gallant contacted Lt. Peter Favreau, the officer in charge, about the situation, and he directed that none of the off-duty officers were to conduct the investigation or author the arrest affidavit. Favreau is named as a defendant in the suit, as are the four off-duty officers.

Officer Beau Bernard, who is also named as a defendant, wrote the arrest affidavit. He acknowledged he did not get any names or statements from any of the 20 or so patrons standing outside the tavern other than Alex Marin, who had argued with Micklovich inside the bar and who was trying to become a member of the Manchester Police Department. Martin initially refused to speak to police or give a statement but later agreed.

The lawsuit alleges Bernard did not attempt to interview any of the off-duty police officers who saw or participated in the incident. Four other off-duty officers were at the tavern that night and witnessed some or all of the events, according to the lawsuit.

Bernard also admitted he did not approach anyone inside the bar to see if there were any potential witnesses. He did not hear anyone from the police department make an announcement for any potential witnesses to provide a statement but police said that does not mean that didn't happen.

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