A Salem police officer was charged Wednesday with allegedly striking a 39-year-old Maine man in the head with a flashlight and stepping on his hands after he was apprehended during a police pursuit.
Joseph Freda, who joined the department about a year-and-a-half ago, is facing two counts of simple assault for his contact with Thomas Templeton, of York, Maine. State police charged Templeton with reckless driving and disobeying a police officer after a pursuit that ended in Salem shortly before 2:12 a.m. on Oct. 6.
Templeton is currently being held at Rockingham County jail.
Salem police said in a statement that they fully cooperated with the investigation and placed Freda on unpaid administrative leave after their own internal investigation into the matter. Freda is expected to have an administrative hearing regarding his job status next week.
“The Salem Police Department does not tolerate excessive use of force from its police officers,” Salem Deputy Police Chief Shawn Patten said in the statement. “The Salem Police Department has long-standing policies and procedures in place providing guidance for our officers.”
Patten said the department’s 62 full-time officers receive mandatory, comprehensive training, including arrest procedures and acceptable use of force. That training happens on an ongoing basis, the department said.
Freda’s arrest comes just days after a YouTube video showed a Seabrook police officer slamming a suspect’s face into a wall, which set off a criminal investigation into alleged police brutality in the 2009 incident. (See related story, Page A5.) In Salem, the investigation into Freda began Oct. 22 when the New Hampshire State Police notified the state Attorney General’s Office about the injuries Templeton suffered during his arrest. Templeton was sitting on the ground in handcuffs when he was allegedly struck and had his hands stepped on, according to state investigators.
Freda’s lawyer, Donald Blaszka, said late Wednesday that his client plans to enter a not-guilty plea in 10th Circuit Court in Salem within the next few days. Blaszka said he has yet to receive police reports and other materials collected from the investigation.
“Once we receive that information, we will review it thoroughly and prepare my client’s defense,” Blaszka said.
Associate Attorney General Jane Young said her office is now looking into other incidents involving Freda.
A 21-year-old man was sentenced to a year in jail for assault last May for attempting to take Freda’s gun and breaking his hand while the two struggled during a November 2012 arrest. Freda struck the man in the face during the scuffle while trying to keep his gun from being taken.
“When gathering the facts, reviewing a past case like that would fall under the scope of that investigation,” Young said.
Freda also drew at least one complaint while on duty as a police officer in Brookline prior to accepting a job in Salem, according to court records. Resident Sharon Ryherd, who was arrested in June 2009, complained about Freda’s conduct when she was arrested for disobeying a police officer, resisting arrest and reckless operation. The charges were later dropped to non-criminal violations and Ryherd paid fines, court records say.
Freda is scheduled for his arraignment on Feb. 24 in 10th Circuit Court in Salem.
New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Paul Feely contributed to this report.