NH officers placed on leave after brutal exchange posted on web - myfoxcarolinas.com

NH officers placed on leave after brutal exchange posted on web

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SEABROOK, N.H. (MyFoxBoston.com) -- Three police officers from Seabrook, NH were placed on paid leave this week after video was posted online showing one of them violently slamming a prisoner's head into a wall inside the Seabrook police station.

The prisoner, who was 19 at the time, was then yanked to his feet and escorted a few steps down a hallway before he falls or is pushed down. While he's down, another officer pepper sprays him.

The video, recorded three years ago and posted on Monday, has already sparked online outrage, helped in no small part by the smirks visible on two of the three officers' faces. The video is from the police station's surveillance camera and is marked "Cell Hall" and stamped with a date of Nov. 11, 2009.

It was apparently posted by the man who was slammed into the wall: Michael Bergeron, who had been arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated and drug possession.

Seabrook Town Manager William Manzi tells FOX Undercover's Mike Beaudet that an investigation is now open.

"Obviously the first call I made was the chief of police (Lee Bitomske), and after he viewed the video we jointly agreed that an investigation was warranted," Manzi said.

"Based on what you saw, do you think that's excessive force?" Beaudet asked.

"I don't want to prejudge and co-opt the chief here. I think it's fair to say what we saw here warrants a full investigation," Manzi replied.

"It looks like his head was smashed into the wall," Beaudet said.

"The video is quite clear and graphic but, again we don't want to prejudge," Manzi replied.

In a police report, an officer wrote, "While in the booking room Bergeron was an emotional roller coaster, one minute he was angry with all officer (sic) stating derogatory commits (sic) to all of us, then the next minute he was happy."

The officer explains the incident by saying Bergeron had been refusing to walk back to his cell when an officer appeared to perform an arm bar takedown on Bergeron.

The officer explains the pepper spray, writing, "Due to Bergeron's prior spitting and failure to comply to anyone's order, I pepper sprayed him as he looked back at us in the hallway," the report says.

Manzi says neither he nor Chief Bitomske, who was deputy chief at the time, saw the video until it was posted on YouTube this week.

"Why wouldn't the police department know about that if it's on their cameras?" Beaudet asked Manzi.

"I think that would be better answered after the investigation as to how and why it comes now as to when it was made. I don't know the answer to that," Manzi said. "My message to the public is we value your trust. We want you to know that the investigation will be thorough, complete and that if there have been incidences where procedure hasn't been followed, administrative action will follow."

Bergeron pleaded guilty to the charges in 2010.

He told FOX Undercover he needed to meet with his attorney before talking about the incident.

In his YouTube post, he said his former lawyer took the video of the incident and Bergeron couldn't track him down for two years. A lawsuit has not been filed so far.

The N.H. Attorney General is investigating.

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