Agency to probe alleged brutality
The mayor said the city and police department will have no part in the investigation once BCI takes over.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
and AMANDA C. DAVIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation is being asked to look into a city man's complaint that he was beaten by police.
Fred Harris, city safety-service director, and Police Chief John Mandopoulos said Friday a formal complaint was filed against two officers by LaMont Murray.
Mandopoulos said he would fax the formal complaint to BCI and will also mail the complaint by certified mail to the agency.
As soon as BCI takes over, the city and police department will have no involvement in the investigation, Mayor Hank Angelo said.
Impartiality concern: The BCI investigation will dispel any doubts the public may have about whether the city could be impartial with the investigation, Angelo said, adding, "We're open to having an outside investigation."
Murray, 29, said Sgt. Rob Massucci and patrol officer David Weber used excessive force when they arrested him Monday.
"Mr. Murray's complaint is going to be investigated, and I believe BCI will be the best agency to handle the matter," Mandopoulos said. "I don't want anyone to say that the officers got any special treatment, so I think it's best to have an outside agency look at the matter."
The chief added that Weber's brother-in-law is a police captain and Massucci's cousin works in the city's human resource department.
Man's complaint: Murray said police used pepper spray on him and beat him around 6 p.m. Monday after the car in which he was riding was pulled over on Niles Road during a routine traffic stop. The car was being driven by Murray's aunt.
Police reports: Police reports said Murray refused to leave the car and punched one of the officers in the chest. A brief struggle ensued before the officers arrested him.
Police charged him with felony assault of a peace officer and obstructing official business. He pleaded innocent to the charges Tuesday in municipal court. He is free on a $3,500 bond.
Murray said he has 20 staples in his head to close a gash caused by police.
His complaint says Massucci grabbed him by the arm and pulled him from the vehicle. Murray's complaint adds that an officer sprayed him with pepper spray in his right eye and he was hit with "a night stick by an officer causing my head to split."
"At this time, blood from my head went into my eyes, mouth and nose," the complaint states. "At this time, I was sprayed again by pepper spray causing me to be blinded. At this point, I couldn't see or breathe. I was struck in my head and neck again. I fell to me knees and asked them to please stop. At this point, they kicked me and forced my face down in the dirt."
Murray said one of the officers put his foot on his neck and forced him to keep his face on the ground. "Another officer put his knee on my back and put handcuffs on me while I was still lying on my face and I was unable to breathe," Murray's complaint says.
Murray explained it was difficult for him to breathe during the struggle because he has asthma.
Massucci said Thursday that neither he nor Weber used excessive force.
Mother's complaint: Murray's mother, Lucille, also filed a complaint, saying that when she went to the hospital to see her son, she was told she could not see him. She said she was eventually allowed to visit with him.
"When I went on into the room, I saw my son covered in blood and I thought I was going to die," Mrs. Murray's complaint states. "I couldn't believe officers who were supposed to protect us can use this type of force on a human. They even treat a dog with more dignity than they showed us."
Justice Department: Angelo said he got a call Friday from officials at the Detroit office of the U.S. Justice Department, saying they would be in town July 10 to meet with him.
Justice Department officials did not say why they're coming, but the mayor believes it has to do with Murray's complaint.
Birdia Roberts, president of the Warren-Trumbull chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, also told city council Wednesday she was considering calling in the Justice Department.