Seabrook police report paints man in video as aggressive, uncooperative; man's lawyer plans to seek justice
The report details accounts by different officers who were either directly involved in trying to control then-19-year-old Michael Bergeron Jr. or observed what was happening inside the booking room and cell hallway.
The report was obtained by the New Hampshire Union Leader after Bergeron posted a video on YouTube Monday that shows an officer slamming him into the wall while being escorted down a hall even though he didn't appear to be combative at that point and another other officer pepper spraying him while he was on the floor.
However, the officers' statements make no mention of Bergeron being slammed into the wall, but one of the officers stated that another officer had "performed an arm bar" on Bergeron to control him.
Selectmen held an emergency closed-door meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss the video and later released the names of three officers who were shown in the video and are now on paid administrative leave.
The officers were identified as Mark Richardson, Adam Laurent, and Keith Dietenhofer.
A fourth officer who is seen entering the hallway after the incident was David Hersey, but he was not put on administrative leave.
The investigation into the four-year-old incident was launched only after Bergeron posted the video on YouTube Monday.
The incident happened after Bergeron's arrest on Nov. 11, 2009, on charges of driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. He was found guilty on both charges in June 2010 and was fined and had his license suspended for 18 months.
Police Chief Lee Bitomski, who wasn't chief at the time, said he and Deputy Chief Mike Gallagher were unaware of the incident or the video, taken from police security cameras, until it appeared on YouTube.
Bitomski said the video was released as part of the discovery process following his 2009 arrest and were provided to Bergeron, although Bergeron has claimed that his attorney disappeared with the tape for two years and that he just got it back.
"Why they're surfacing now, I cannot answer that," Bitomski said.
The name of Bergeron's first attorney isn't known, but he is now being represented by Scott Gleason of Gleason Law Offices in Haverhill, Mass.
Gleason called the video "disgusting" and "sad" and said he plans to seek justice for Bergeron while cooperating with the agencies investigating the case.
"It's obviously over the top. It's brutal," he said of the video.
Gleason also called the police report on the incident "inaccurate."
"In my 34 years I don't ever recall seeing a video of behavior and right next to it seeing a police report that is 180 degrees opposite of what transpired," Gleason said, adding that there are "significant questions relative to civil rights violations."
Gleason said he couldn't comment on why the video is coming to light now.
In his written statement, Officer Hersey said he stopped Bergeron's 1996 Jeep Cherokee on Kimberly Lane after he failed to stop at a stop sign and was seen traveling over the speed limit.
Hersey said he could smell a strong odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle and that Bergeron's eyes "were glassy and his speech was slow and slurred," the report said.
He said Bergeron began swearing at officers and after being placed in the back of the cruiser, he continued to yell and swear and at one point kicked the backplate of his cruiser.
After arriving at the station, Hersey said Bergeron was still being uncooperative and "lunged out of the vehicle at me." The report said he continued to make threats and swear at officers.
Officer Laurent described how Officer Richardson escorted Bergeron out of the booking room and "soon after Officer Richardson appeared to perform an arm bar on Bergeron."
Bergeron fell to the floor and then stood up with Richardson's help.
"Bergeron fell to the floor again and crawled on all fours, not responding to Officer Richardson's orders. 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," wrote Laurent, who is the husband of Greenland Police Chief Tara Laurent.
Bergeron was eventually escorted to the sally port where he was decontaminated and then placed back in the cell.
After he was bailed, Laurent said Bergeron "was apologetic" while leaving the station.
In a separate written statement, Officer Dietenhofer explained what he observed that night. He said that Richardson was escorting Bergeron back to the cell and that he appeared to shift his weight onto Richardson.
"While in the hallway I observed Bergeron turn his head around toward Ofc. Richardson and it appeared as though he was attempting to turn his body so as to face Ofc. Richardson," Dietenhofer said.
Richardson was then heard telling Bergeron to "cut the s—t" as he "gained control" of him, Dietenhofer said.
Dietenhofer said Bergeron fell to the floor and refused to stand up. He also witnessed Laurent pepper spraying Bergeron in the face.
The report provided to the New Hampshire Union Leader by police did not contain a written statement from Richardson.
On Wednesday, Chief Bitomski met with members of the state Attorney General's Office, which is taking the lead role in the investigation of the incident on the video.
He provided information to the Associate Attorney General Jane Young and said he would cooperate fully with the office and expected others within the department to do the same.
Bitomski said Deputy Chief Gallagher will conduct an internal investigation of the incident following the attorney general's investigation.
The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI have also joined the probe, U.S. Attorney John Kacavas said.
Bitomski insisted that the department would "get to the bottom of this" and hopes the case is resolved sooner rather than later.
"Obviously it's a major setback for us. It's a dark cloud. But I can assure the people of Seabrook that we do have professional officers, men and women, in the department," he said.
When asked if officers are mandated to report conduct of other officers that may be viewed as an excessive use of force, Bitomski said, "We would hope that they would report it to administration. Obviously this just came to light to the deputy chief and I as well as the board of selectmen and the town manager. This is us seeing this video for the first time."