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Seabrook fires two officers for Bergeron brutality; Third officer suspended, lieutenant demoted

Union Leader Correspondent

July 23. 2014 2:20PM

SEABROOK — Town authorities announced Wednesday afternoon that police officers Mark Richardson and Adam Laurent have been fired for their brutal actions following the November 2009 arrest of Michael Bergeron, then 19.

Officer Keith Dietenhofer was suspended for two days without pay and supervisory Lt. John Wasson had been demoted to patrolman, town manager Bill Manzi said at a press conference in Seabrook town hall.

Town authorities also released a report detailing findings from an independent internal review of the police department and the incident on the night of Nov. 11, 2009.

“It was a dark cloud over us,” Seabrook police Chief Lee Bitomske said Wednesday, referring to the incident and its aftermath. “I’m hoping as time moves on, that cloud lifts.”

Bitomske said he is undertaking a comprehensive review of department policies in an effort to prevent the future use of excessive force by police.

Joseph McKittrick, the town’s labor attorney, said the severity of the discipline handed down Wednesday was rare.

“Seldom have you seen that in police departments in this state, that kind of discipline,” he said. “We will never tolerate that kind of conduct in this town.”

Bergeron, now 23, made headlines in January after posting a YouTube video that showed a Seabrook police officer slamming him into a wall in a police station hallway after he was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated and drug possession that night.

Another officer is then seen pepper-spraying Bergeron while he’s on the floor.

Officers wrote in police reports that night that Bergeron was aggressive, uncooperative and on an “emotional rollercoaster.”

He was found guilty on both charges in June 2010.

Bergeron was fined and had his license suspended for 18 months.

Town authorities placed officers Richardson, Laurent and Dietenhofer on paid administrative leave shortly after the video was posted.

Richardson was indicted in April on a single count of simple assault by an on-duty law enforcement officer.

Town authorities changed his administrative leave to unpaid after the indictment.

Joyce Bergeron, Michael Bergeron’s mother, expressed relief after Wednesday’s press conference.

“It restored my faith in the town,” she said of the disciplinary ruling.

She said the brutality stayed in her son’s mind long after his arrest.

“It just really bothered him for all these years,” she said, adding that he would “be very happy” to learn of the ruling.

“It’s been hard,” Joyce Bergeron, a Seabrook resident, said of the time since the incident. “It’s just been hard on everybody.”

Selectmen contracted Municipal Resources in April to conduct an independent investigation of the incident and the police department. Manzi said the investigation cost between $5,000 and $7,000.

Bergeron has been arrested on other various charges since 2007. He was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in state prison last month for breaking into a Hampton condominium.

Judge N. William Delker told Bergeron on June 9 that his attempts on Aug. 13, 2013, to gain entry into townhouses at a 110-unit complex in Hampton were surprisingly brazen.

A jury convicted Bergeron in April of one count of felony burglary for entering a townhouse with another man and taking two laptops.

Defense lawyer Tom Gleason, in requesting a lighter punishment before sentencing, said Bergeron had been accepted into a residential drug-treatment program in Portland, Maine, in an effort to deal with substance abuse issues.

Public Safety Labor Seabrook

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