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Former Seabrook cop takes stand, testifies teen was 'belligerent'

By JAMES A. KIMBLE
Union Leader Correspondent

May 21. 2015 8:02PM
Former Seabrook police officer Mark Richardson testifies at his assault trial Thursday. (JAMES A. KIMBLE)



BRENTWOOD — Ex-Seabrook police officer Mark Richardson told jurors Thursday that he was simply reacting to a belligerent and resistant Michael Bergeron when a technique used to subdue him went wrong.

“I felt I was going to lose control of the subject and made a decision to use an arm-bar and regain control,” Richardson testified in his own defense during the third day of his assault trial. “As I do the maneuver, he falls in a wall in a way I really didn't expect him to fall and he goes into a wall in a way that I never expected to happen.”

A jury is expected to begin deliberating Friday about whether Richardson, 40, of West Newbury, Mass. assaulted Bergeron, a 19-year-old arrested for drunken driving, by slamming his head into a concrete wall at the Seabrook police station.

Prosecutors say Bergeron did nothing to justify Richardson's actions.

Bergeron's behavior while in custody on Nov. 11, 2009, in the moments leading up to being handled by Richardson, has been a central focus of the trial. Bergeron was not called to testify by prosecutors during the trial.

On Thursday, prosecutors and the defense undertook a frame-by-frame review of the video of Bergeron as he was being escorted by Richardson back to a holding cell, flanked by two other police officers, before being slammed into the wall.

Assistant Attorney General Jay McCormack elicited testimony from Richardson that he stood six-feet, six-inches tall and weighed 270 pounds when he led a 160-pound Bergeron down the police station hallway. McCormack asked Richardson to count the number of steps Bergeron took in the hallway before the officer decided to take action. Richardson counted about six steps total. McCormack said it was 10.

Asked if he was in fear of being attacked, Richardson replied: “He turned at me. I saw his hand come up. I wouldn't say fear, but I don't know if he was going to use force against me.”

Richardson was the senior patrol officer at the station when Bergeron was arrested by another officer. A second officer, Adam Laurent, participated in the booking process and took an inventory of Bergeron's vehicle.

Richardson testified about Bergeron making the toilet overflow in his holding cell, and swearing at officers when he was first brought to the station to be booked for drunken driving. At one point, Bergeron slipped his cuffs so that they were in front of him.

“I had a feeling this wasn't going to be a simple and quick in-and-out arrest,” Richardson testified.

No reports were written about the use of force by Richardson. Richardson said he believed Laurent, who shot pepper spray at Bergeron after he was slammed into the wall, would have written a report mentioning what happened.

Michael Gallagher, Seabrook's deputy police chief, testified that he only learned about the alleged assault last January when Bergeron posted a video of the incident on YouTube. Gallagher, a lieutenant in 2009, said that supervisors at his department should have been notified about Richardson's use of force.

“It never reached my level,” Gallagher said. “I know that.”

Judge N. William Delker will likely ask jurors to use their common sense in weighing both the sworn testimony and the video footage repeatedly shown in court. But jurors will also have to consider the testimony of hired experts who offered opposing views of Richardson's actions.

Robert Dyer, a Lowell, Mass., police officer testifying for the defense, identified Richardson's use of the arm-bar maneuver as an acceptable use of force under the proper circumstances.

Daniel Linskey, former chief of the Boston police department, suggested in his testimony that Richardson could have used lesser physical techniques to subdue Bergeron if needed. Standing in front of the jury, he grabbed Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward in a wrist-lock move and swiftly brought him face first to the ground. “Maybe I won't volunteer for the rear one,” Ward said, regaining his footing while getting a laugh from the jury.

jkimble@newstote.com


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