Thursday, March 19, 2009

HARTFORD, CONN. (AP) - A video released this week by a central Connecticut police department shows a former officer pummeling an unresisting suspect with his fists in an expletive-laced beating that ends with the lawman shouting, “That was me being gentle!” The officer, Brian Lawlor, was fired three months after the 2005 incident. He pleaded guilty March 12 to a third-degree assault and was given a one-year suspended sentence.

The nearly five-minute video was recorded from Lawlor’s squad car and was released Wednesday under a Freedom of Information request, according to Sgt. Lenny Caponigro, the department’s spokesman.

It begins with a Lawlor in pursuit of a suspect in a road rage incident, identified later as Alexis Hernandez of Meriden.

Lawlor was joined by a second officer and the chase ended in a public housing project after Hernandez’s car was rammed from behind by Lawlor’s cruiser.

The video shows Hernandez being hit as he sat in the driver’s seat, and the beating continued as he was pulled from his car. Three officers are seen attacking Hernandez, who appears handcuffed in the footage, beating him with a gun, their fists and repeatedly kneeing him.

No charges were ever filed against the other two officers.

Neither Hernandez nor Police Chief Jeffry Cossette immediately returned telephone calls Thursday.

Cossette told the Record-Journal that Lawlor’s actions on the video were unacceptable. Lawlor was fired in December 2005.

“The efforts were not to get the suspect into custody, they were to punish the suspect,” Cossette said.

Two months after the incident, Hernandez filed a letter of intent to sue the city, but a settlement was reached for $100,000.

Attorney Norman Pattis, who represented Lawlor, said Thursday that the video supports Lawlor’s contention that he thought Hernandez was reaching for a gun.

“In the heat of a high-speed pursuit, the man appeared to be reaching for a gun. Should Lawlor have shot him?” Pattis said.

The lawyer declined to say what Lawlor had been doing since he was fired.

Cossette said he was satisfied with the plea agreement Lawlor got because the conviction will make him unable to be a police officer anywhere in Connecticut.

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