ST. ALBANS, Vt. (AP) - A former Vermont police officer has been charged with assault accusing him of using pepper spray on a suspect who was handcuffed and in a holding cell at the St. Albans police department in 2017 after the state attorney general reopened the case.
The charge comes amid protests nationwide and in Vermont calling for an end to police brutality.
Joel Daugreilh pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of simple assault on Tuesday. He’s accused of using pepper spray on Nathan Willey, of St. Albans, on Nov. 26, 2017. Daugreilh was placed on administrative leave afterward and then resigned.
The attorney general’s office decided not to charge Daugreilh initially after an outside expert on use of force said his actions were reasonable, Attorney General T.J. Donovan said. Donovan reopened the case in January, the St. Albans Messenger reported.
“I got it wrong the first time,” he said, adding that the case “troubled me at the outset.”
An email sent to the public defender who represented Daugreilh was not immediately answered Wednesday.
Willey, who was 18 at the time, said he was “insulting” to the officers while being held but didn’t threaten them, according to an affidavit by Vermont State Police Detective Sgt. Karl Gardner. Willey, who was shackled to a bench in the cell, also complained about the tightness of his handcuffs, which a police officer checked and said were fine, the affidavit said.
Willey then started kicking the the cell door, causing it open, the affidavit said. Willey said Daugreilh told him he was going to “mace him,” then went into the cell, pulled Willey’s hands away from his face and sprayed him with pepper spray.
Daugreilh told Gardner that Willey had a history of being aggressive with police and became disruptive after learning of new charges against him.
He said Willey’s behavior escalated over an hour and a half and that he chose to use pepper spray after Willey didn’t “show any signs of calming down, especially since he now knew he could break the door open,” the affidavit said.
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