EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 20, 2013

Hearing set in 'belly-bumping' police assault case

By Jill Harmacinski

---- — LAWRENCE - A hearing to determine whether police officer Daron Fraser will be charged criminally with assaulting a superior officer is scheduled for March 1 - a month after he was placed on paid administrative leave again.

On Jan. 27, just three weeks after he returned to work after 29 months off the job, Fraser was accused of “belly-bumping” a sergeant in the 90 Lowell St. police station.

The assault allegedly occurred after an argument over a television being on and closing the door to the police department’s radio room/dispatch area, law enforcement sources said.

On March 1, a hearing will be held in Lawrence District Court to determine if there is sufficient evidence to charge Fraser with assault and battery or other charges, Police Chief John Romero said.

An internal investigation into the incident was also conducted by Capt. Scott McNamara, the patrol commander. The night the incident occurred Fraser was relieved of duty and placed on paid administrative leave a day later. In addition to possible criminal charges, Fraser may face additional departmental discipline, Romero said.

Fraser, 40, had just returned to work in early January and was not allowed to carry a firearm due to a domestic assault and battery conviction. Without a weapon, he was assigned to the radio room/dispatch area.

In July 2010, Fraser was placed on paid administrative leave after he was arrested and charged with beating his then-girlfriend. A Haverhill jury later convicted Fraser of domestic assault and battery for putting his knee on his ex-girlfriend’s throat and gagging her.

Despite Romero’s requests to fire him, Fraser remained on the city payroll until October 2012. At that time, Mayor William Lantigua adopted a hearing officer’s decision and suspended Fraser for three months starting in October.

Lantigua allowed Fraser to come back to work earlier this month, although Romero would not allow Fraser to carry a firearm. Romero pointed to a federal law that prohibits those convicted of domestic assault and battery from carrying guns.

During his 29 months of paid suspension, Fraser earned more than $150,000 and also continued to accrue sick and vacation time and retirement benefits. Fraser, who earns roughly $60,000 annually, was also barred from working paid details.

He could not be reached for comment for this story.

Fraser is among four police officers currently on paid administrative leave within the police department.

Fellow Officer Carlos Gonzalez was put on paid leave Dec. 17 as he remains under investigation in an unspecified case in Florida. Gonzalez earns $60,000 annually.

Deputy Chief Melix Bonilla, who earns $140,000 annually, was indicted on felony charges in September in an ongoing investigation into Lantigua and his administration. Bonilla is accused of swapping 13 city-owned vehicles for four Chevrolets with a Lantigua friend. The state Inspector General said the city lost $30,000 in the deal.

Also in September, Officer P.J. Lopez was indicted by a federal grand jury. He’s accused of making arrangements with a local tow company to have cars he ticketed towed in exchange for a “stream of benefits” including a $4,000 snow plow. Lopez faces charges of bribery, making false statements to a federal agency and obstruction of justice in connection with an unnamed towing company in Lawrence.