The operator of the vehicle attempted to elude Police and actually struck a Hartford Police vehicle as they fled. At the time of the chase , there were also numerous radio reports that a Hartford Police Officer had been struck also. At that point the chase was on and the pursuit wound its way through surface streets in Hartford and West Hartford until the vehicle was eventually stopped on Flatbush Avenue and its occupants taken into custody.
Apparently, shortly after the chase and arrest of the occupants, Hartford Police Chief James Rovella was made aware of the occupants arrest photos, which showed injuries to the faces and head of both males. It wasn't immediately clear if the injuries were a result of the crash that ended the pursuit or other means. Based on that information, Chief Rovella began an Internal Affairs review of the arrest.
Almost immediately, the investigation was taken over by the Connecticut Chief States Attorney Kevin Kane and assigned to Litchfield County States Attorney David Shepack. These moves were apparently made to avoid any signs of impropriety or conflict of interest in the eyes of the public as to the Hartford Police investigating "their own" and conduct a thorough and impartial investigation.
Shepack eventually enlisted the aid of the Connecticut State Police Western District Major Crimes unit to supplement his Inspectors. The investigation was apparently overseen by CSP Sergeant Brian Narkiewicz, the affiant who applied for Spell's arrest. But thorough and impartial may be the furthest thing from what actually happened in the end. The investigation eventually wound on for several months, ending in the arrest of only one person, Sergeant Sean Spell from the Hartford Police Department on December 8, 2016.
After the criminal aspect was done, Chief Rovella's Internal investigation was allowed to proceed. The IAD investigation was put on hold while Shepack's investigation took place so as not to compromise the criminal investigation.
Once the IAD investigation began again, it appears to be a much more thorough review of the incident than that claimed by the State Police. The same agency that was forbidden from conducting the original investigation, actually did more to get to the truth of the incident. HPD Internal Affairs Investigators, while reviewing all of the video were drawn to one clip in particular.
It was cruiser video from a West Hartford Police dash camera from Car 22 , reportedly operated by an Officer Ed Jacovino. According to HPD sources familiar with the IAD investigation, investigators were drawn to the very beginning of the video clip. In the chaos of the chase and subsequent activity, an apparent suspect can be seen on the ground along side the crashed vehicle. If you watch the video closely at about 4 seconds in, several plain clothes police officers can be seen around the suspect. One officer is pulling his legs and feet back toward the rear of the car, while several other officers are seen kicking the handcuffed suspect around the waist, chest, shoulders and head.
The action in the video is rather chaotic, but it doesn't appear as though the suspect is fighting back. Also, rather troubling is the audio accompanying the video. A voice is clearly heard on the video yelling "cameras, cameras" as an apparent warning to those officers with the suspect that their actions were being caught on video. A few seconds after the warning, which may have been from the wireless microphone of the officer operating West Hartford Car 22.
The suspect is stood up and walked away and then put on the ground in front of a tree, kneeling on all fours and handcuffed. That is where the Spell incident took place, the only incident that was addressed with criminal charges, although the previous incident with the kicking should have been clear to anyone that took the time to watch all of the videos.
One of the officer's identified in the video was interviewed by IAD investigators. Originally the officer denied any abusive behavior, but after several attempts , and after being given his Garrity Rights, and after being shown the video, the officer admitted that he did in fact kick the suspect several times. Again, according to sources, the officer further stated that he was upset because he was cut off several times during the pursuit, resulting in the kicks. (**NOTE- Garrity Rights are similar to Miranda rights, but the person under Garrity is compelled during Administartive proceedings to provide information. Garrity protects the employee that if they admit to any wrongdoing, it can be used against them in Administrative proceedings , but can not be used for criminal charges. To read more about Garrity, click here http://www.garrityrights.org/
I have to say that the amount of video that was provided to me after my FOI request was rather extensive. It was time consuming to take the time to sit and watch all of it, but I would think State Police investigators, if their intent was to actually conduct a thorough investigation, would have done the same thing.
Or was their intent from the start to focus in on one target, Sergeant Spell?
Only time will tell, but if the States Attorney's intent was to really ensure public confidence and trust in Police Internal investigations, they missed the mark. And justice should be the same for everyone, regardless of any political pressure to set an example.
This posting was a tough call when I received the video. In the end though I decided that even good cops can make mistakes when the adrenaline gets pumping. No suspect, no matter what their offense, should be kicked or beaten after the handcuffs go on. It is one thing to resist arrest and suffer reasonable and appropriate force to be taken into custody, it is something totally different to be subjected to force after the situation is under control and the suspect handcuffed, no matter what the crime.
I think HPD has also shown transparency in dealing with their own, and this will build more trust and confidence with the Community than the State's Investigation did.
I have to also say, that I have had the video for about a week and have spent a lot of time deciding which way to go with it. In the end, I had several Police Officers at my home at different times to view the video. They all agreed the actions in the video were wrong and should be exposed. They also said that the officer's they recognized were "good cops", but that they were taught from day one in the Police Academy, that once the cuffs go on, all other physical actions stop. One officer even said that working alongside officers engaged in abusive behavior is a liability for all police officers and they wouldn't want to be drawn into that.
Accountability and integrity is the same, whether it is for " good cops" or elected officials or for anyone we place our trust in, and I don't have the luxury of deciding who I am going to choose to hold accountable. The standard should be the same for all. In the end, as the saying goes, "If you don't stand for something, you stand for nothing"
Comment has been requested from both the State Police and the Litchfield County States Attorney, if and when anything is received, I will update this posting
The video of the chase was actually June 4, 2016, watch closely the lower left corner of the screen and focus on the feet of the plainclothes officers along side the dark vehicle. Also listen for the officer yelling "cameras, cameras"
SGT SPELL ARREST WARRANT on Scribd