MANCHESTER — A city police officer gave vivid testimony Wednesday about the blows she received last spring outside a downtown bar, blows that prosecutors allege were attempted murder.
Officer Canada Stewart paused at times to compose her emotions and dab her eyes with tissues as she recounted trying to arrest Chasrick Soren Heredia, 24, on May 10 outside GlowBar on Hanover Street.
Heredia, who was then celebrating his birthday, is now on trial for attempted murder, as well as several lesser felonies and misdemeanors.
Stewart described how Heredia attacked her.
“He grabbed me on the back of my hair and pulled me by the neck down to the ground, and he just was beating my head in,” she told the jury in Hillsborough County Superior Court.
Stewart said she suffered a concussion, needed physical therapy and missed 10 shifts of work. She said she still bears the mental scars from that night. Asked to describe them, Stewart said she could not put them into words.
The second day of Heredia’s trial touched several hot-button law enforcement issues — videotaping, police use of force and rowdy downtown clubs.
It’s been difficult for prosecutors to back up Stewart’s version of the assault. A cellphone video from a bystander shows Heredia and Stewart struggling; it even captures the moment Heredia appears to grab Stewart by her hair. But then the video cuts away in the moments prosecutors allege Heredia unleashed a barrage of “jackhammer punches” to Stewart’s head.
Another officer at the scene, Michael Roscoe, testified that he saw Heredia grab Stewart’s hair when he was on the ground. Roscoe said Heredia delivered upper-cut punches.
Defense lawyer Julian Jefferson has hypothesized that Roscoe, who came to Stewart’s assistance, ended up hitting her as he tried to punch Heredia. But Stewart testified Roscoe did not hit her.
“All of a sudden I felt this release. I was able to lift my head off the ground,” she said of Roscoe’s intervention.
The video captures the struggle that three officers faced as they both tried to arrest Heredia and deal with a crowd of patrons leaving GlowBar at closing time. In the video, Heredia is heard telling police “you’re a public servant” and “stop … touching me.”
Police have said there were a lot of people in the crowd shoving each other, which created a problem when it spilled into the street.
In the video, police focus on Heredia and struggle to arrest him, eventually taking him to the ground. Police said they were either struck or pushed by onlookers while doing so.
Heredia grabs Stewart’s hair as the camera moves to follow Roscoe and another officer who have turned their attention to the crowd.
Off camera, Stewart screams and says “Let go of me” in the video. The camera shows Roscoe quickly returning to help and delivering multiple blows to Heredia.
As Heredia struggles, another officer knees him in the chest. Heredia would be stunned with a Taser twice before he was handcuffed.
After the struggle, Stewart continues to help with the arrest and later tells the crowd, including the man taking the video, to go home.
While testifying, Stewart said “there was a brief moment in time I was standing in the street and not knowing what was happening.
“You don’t know what’s going on but you know you have a job to do,” she said.
Stewart testified that she noticed her nose was bleeding while sitting in a police cruiser awaiting an ambulance. But the video shows no nose bleed and the ambulance crew and hospital made no record of a bloody nose.
Most of the testimony Wednesday involved police officers explaining the video as Jefferson reviewed it frame-by-frame.
Prosecutor Donald Topham has also asked each police officer to testify about being filmed. All claimed they do not prohibit people from filming them on the job.
“I feel if I’m doing my job correctly there’s no reason for you not to record,” Stewart said.
In addition to attempted murder, Heredia faces two felony assault charges, a felony riot charge and several misdemeanor charges of assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. He has been held at Valley Street jail since the night of the fight.
GlowBar closed in September after officials took emergency steps to suspend its license following another fracas outside the club.