- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) - A since-fired central Pennsylvania police officer has been ordered to stand trial on charges he punched and kicked an unruly, intoxicated man who was already restrained by other officers.

Former Altoona officer Mark Sprouse, 29, must be tried on simple assault and official oppression charges stemming from the Feb. 11 arrest of 31-year-old Allen Mowery, the Altoona Mirror (https://bit.ly/1MOqgpX ) reported Wednesday.

Mowery has already pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for attacking another officer earlier that evening when he showed up drunk at a halfway house and fought with staff and police. Mowery also acknowledged he was “mouthy, drunk and arrogant” but testified he wasn’t fighting with officers trying to put him in a holding cell.

State authorities charged Sprouse after other Altoona officers said they thought the force Sprouse used against Mowery was excessive.

Two officers, Andrew Weyandt and Mick Johnson, testified against Sprouse at Tuesday’s preliminary hearing.

Weyandt testified that Mowery said, “I’m done” and “I’m not doing anything,” before he stopped struggling with officers and had fallen to the floor while being dragged to a police station holding cell. Weyandt said Sprouse kicked Mowery in the head while he was restrained by other officers.

Johnson testified that Sprouse’s punches might have been justified while Mowery was upright and struggling, but said the kick was “excessive.”

Altoona Officers Alton Pittman and Ben Meintel both testified they didn’t think Sprouse’s actions violated the city’s use of force policy because Mowery was resisting being led to the holding cell.

Defense attorney Stephen Passarello asked Weyandt why he waited a week to report the alleged abuses to state police.

Weyandt said he felt pressure from other officers who believed Sprouse did nothing wrong and said filing a report against a fellow officer is difficult.

“You struggle with it,” he testified.

Passarello argued that security video of the incident, which has inexplicably disappeared, might have exonerated Sprouse. Among other things, Passarello said it would have showed that Mowery beat himself so hard against the cell door that it bowed.

Passarello said he believes a jury will find Sprouse not guilty.

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Information from: Altoona Mirror, https://www.altoonamirror.com


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