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New London — Witnesses say police officers assisting an ambulance crew at an alcohol detoxification center Wednesday night punched, pepper sprayed and smashed the head of a man repeatedly into asphalt.
Southeastern Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SCADD) Executive Director Jack Malone said Friday that six staff members at the organization’s Coit Street detoxification facility had filed witness statements to the New London Police Department about what they saw Wednesday evening.
Witness Stanley Jurgielewicz, a technician at the facility, is calling for an investigation into the beating of a potential client of the center who was subsequently arrested.
“I had a conversation with the police chief (Thursday) because what occurred there was not right and was witnessed by six people,” Malone said. “It was very troubling. I had a very good conversation with the police chief and Capt. William Dittman, and now, what they do about it, it’s in their court, but I related to them the concerns reported to me Wednesday evening and Thursday morning by my staff people.”
Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said in a statement Friday afternoon that he had met with Police Chief Margaret Ackley and Deputy Chief Marshall Segar about the incident.
“A thorough investigation will take place, and is already underway, concerning the conduct of all involved,” Finizio said. “This investigation may take weeks to complete but its findings will be released to the public when ready.”
Deputy Chief Segar did not respond to repeated calls and email about the incident.
Police were called around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to the detoxification facility at 47 Coit St. to accompany an ambulance that was to take a potential client to the emergency room because of a high blood alcohol content.
Jurgielewicz said calling an officer to help an intoxicated client into an ambulance is standard operating procedure. Most of the time, Jurgielewicz said Friday, the officers are “charismatic” and help convince the client to get treatment.
Instead, Jurgielewicz said the first officer arriving on scene pulled up and sprinted from his police cruiser, attacking the man, Reuben J. Miller, from behind.
“At no point did the first officer identify himself as a police officer or confront Reuben to place his hands behind his back,” Jurgielewicz wrote that night in a statement to police. “A second officer arrived soon after and proceeded to join in the situation by punching Reuben in the face multiple times.”
From there, Jurgielewicz said, the attack got even worse as about 10 people, including two paramedics, watched in shock as two more officers arrived. One slammed Miller’s head into the asphalt multiple times, Jurgielewicz said, while another pepper sprayed him in the face.
“I could hear his skull smashing into the concrete,” Jurgielewicz said. “I’ll never forget that sound. One cop was punching him in the face multiple times, punching like he was a boxer. It was like cage fighting stuff, that’s how it was. It was horrifying.”
Mayor Finizio, in his statement Friday, asked the public and media to withhold judgment until the investigation is completed.
“These incidents can be fast-paced and complicated and it is often easy to second guess the judgment of the officers involved before a full investigation can be conducted,” Finizio said.
After the beating, Jurgielewicz said, police stuffed a dazed and bleeding Miller into a police cruiser. When the center’s admitting nurse protested, saying Miller needed medical attention, Jurgielewicz said the officer told them that Miller was “not going to the hospital, he’s going to jail.”
Miller was charged with interfering with an officer is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 29.
Jurgielewicz said four police officers responded to the scene.
According to New London police records, the arresting officer was Joseph Pelchat. The transporting officer was Kurt Lavimoniere.
“They looked at him like a piece of trash, and treated him like trash,” Jurgielewicz said. “No human being should ever be treated the way Reuben was treated.”