MANCHESTER — The Attorney General’s office has concluded city officers were justified in their use of force while arresting four people outside the Bonfire Restaurant and Country Bar in downtown Manchester last November.
Cries of police brutality were raised after a video of the Nov. 18 arrests emerged on social media and drew a flurry of comments. The video shows police striking and Tasering two people as they struggle during an arrest.
A crowd watches, and some yell “police brutality” and tell police they will end up in jail for their actions. Both police officers and suspects shout profanities during the struggle.
The New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union called for local and state authorities to investigate.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald issued a statement saying his office had concluded its review of the incident, and determined the officers involved were justified in their uses of force and that the Manchester Police Department’s review of the incident “was handled appropriately.”
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In a letter to Manchester Police Chief Carlo Capano dated Feb. 13, Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward, chief of the department’s Criminal Justice Bureau, writes he has reviewed the Manchester police department’s internal review of the handling of the incident, along with the case file, officer narrative reports, videos obtained of the incident, as well as Response to Resistance Reports completed by responding officers. Ward also reviewed a memorandum from Lt. Joseph Mucci concerning his administrative review of the incident.
“Having completed my review of these materials, I have concluded that the review of this incident was handled appropriately by your department and further that the officers involved in this incident were justified in their respective uses of force under RSA 627:5,” writes Ward. “Because I am aware that there are ongoing legal proceedings stemming from this incident I am unable to further discuss the facts of the incident or the rationale for my conclusions until all legal proceedings are concluded.”
Ward says he will present the department with a final report on his findings “once any legal proceedings have concluded.”
Late Wednesday, Manchester police issued a statement saying the department “continues to work collaboratively with outside agencies to promote and encourage transparency for each and every investigation involving our officers.”
“The incident, which took place outside of Bonfire Restaurant in November of 2018, is another example of the frequent interactions our officers have with combative, non-compliant individuals,” reads the statement. “Chief Carlo Capano is extremely pleased with the Attorney General’s conclusion based on the fact all officers followed proper procedures while making the arrests on November 18, 2018. We are also pleased with the continued support from our local business, community members and citizens who maintain the faith in our agency as we continue to protect and serve citizens of the City of Manchester, New Hampshire.”
ACLU-NH Legal Director Gilles Bissonnette said he wanted more information before commenting on the AG’s finding.
“We appreciate that an investigation was conducted,” said Bissonnette. “However, we have not had an opportunity to comprehensively review the report or the underlying investigatory documents upon which the report relies, and so cannot form an opinion as to whether the investigation was thorough and impartial. Accordingly, we will be seeking access to the investigatory file under Chapter 91-A.”
All four people at Bonfire were arrested on misdemeanor charges. They are identified by Manchester police as:
Lowell, Mass., resident Brandon Bakios, 35, charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Lowell resident Katie Lavertue, 31. Police said she was trying to re-enter the club after getting thrown out. She is charged with obstructing government administration and criminal trespass.
Isaiah Kitchen, 33, of Manchester, disorderly conduct.
Daniel Ferrigno, 34, of Haverhill, Mass., disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
A request sent to police seeking the current status of all four cases was not answered.
A video of the arrests posted on social media starts with the arrest of one man struggling as a police officer, straddling his lower body, makes what appears to be two right-hand punches.
Four police officers join in the arrest, the straddler throws a left punch and the man is eventually Tasered. At that point someone in the crowd says “police brutality” and “you guys are going to jail this time.”
Onlookers also mention the name Isaiah, an apparent reference to city resident Isaiah Kitchen, one of the four arrested.
Police tell another man to walk away and threaten to Taser him, too. He then is brought down into a snowbank and complies with arrest.
A third person is told to back up and does so. Eventually officers swarm him and arrest him. An officer positions himself with knees on the back of the man’s thigh and delivers a few blows to a leg. A Taser is eventually employed.
The Bonfire incident sparked support from some city officials for Manchester police to start wearing body cameras.
Earlier this month, Capano announced 12 officers in his department will begin a 30-day tryout of body cameras starting Feb. 19, with the expectation that all police officers will eventually wear the technology.
Capano said the Georgia-based company BodyWorn will supply the equipment, upgrades and computer storage for the system. He estimated it will cost $1 million to $1.5 million over five years.