EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 7, 2014

Seabrook officers suspended, video shows man's head slammed against concrete wall

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

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SEABROOK -- Two police officers have been placed on administrative leave and town officials are scrambling for answers after a four-year-old video uploaded on to YouTube yesterday shows one officer slamming a young man's head against a cement wall inside the Liberty Lane police station.

Town Manager Bill Manzi would not immediately disclose the names of the suspended officers pending a police investigation into the incident conducted by Chief Lee Bitomske. Manzi added that its possible that an outside agency will be hired to assist the investigation.

"While the investigation is conducted no town official will have able to offer additional comment beyond this station," Manzi said.

The roughly four-minute-long video, titled "police brutality in seabrook," and shot by a cell hall camera on Nov. 11, 2009, shows the suspect being lead down a hall by a police officer while two others walked along side. Seconds later, the officer throws the suspect's head against against the wall, knocking him off his feet and sprawling him onto the floor. Still dazed, the suspect is hauled to his feet before falling down again. Moments later, a second police officer douses the suspect with appears to be pepper spray. At various points, some of the officers smile, and one looks directly at the surveillance camera.

A description of the video, uploaded by a man whose screen name is Mike Berg, reads: "Charged with a dwi not even drunk and tried explaining that I wasn't drunk and they could be out catching actual criminals. Then after being in the cell for a while waiting for a bail bonds man I was taken out and brought in the booking room to call for a ride. After calling a ride I was told I could take my phone that I called from and my wallet. as soon as I grabbed my wallet from the table he officer with the glasses came at me saying he never told me I could take my stuff and choked me against the wall then tried to grab the wallet from my pocket. Once he got the wallet and my phone this is what happened."

Manzi said part of the investigation will focus on how the video, which he confirmed was shot within the police station, got into the hands of the suspect, whose identity has been confirmed.

"We don't know how it got out there," Manzi said, adding he didn't know why the video surfaced yesterday four years after the fact.

According to information found on the video post, the suspect said his lawyer, whom he hired after the incident, took the tape and kept it for two years until the suspect tracked him down. "But now I think it's to late to do anything with it even though I have a permanent lump on the back of my head chipped teeth and brain injuries but talking to a lawyer soon."

At the time of the incident, Seabrook police was led by now-retired Chief Patrick Manthorn. Bitomske was sworn in as the department's newest chief in November 2012.

Earlier today, Bitomske visited the town office building where he and Manzi discussed the matter further. Upon leaving the building, Bitomske declined to comment but said he may have a statement later this afternoon or tomorrow.

Manzi said he first watched the video yesterday after being alerted that there was a video involving Seabrook police that he should see.