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FBI won't investigate death of Ryan O'Loughlin

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: theday.com

Published July 17. 2012 3:00PM   Updated July 17. 2012 11:48PM

Westerly — A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Rhode Island said Tuesday afternoon that the FBI has completed its review of the June 2011 death of Ryan O'Loughlin of Mystic and "there will be no further federal involvement in the matter at this time."

Jim Martin, of the U.S. Attorney's Office, said he could not discuss why the decision was made.

He said that as the FBI has explained previously, there had been an allegation that O'Loughlin's civil rights were violated by Westerly police when they arrested him outside a downtown bar and died 16 hours later. Smith said the review was done to determine whether or not the incident rose to the level of a violation of federal law.

Mark Dana, the lawyer for O'Loughlin's family, could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon. Dana has said O'Loughlin's family plans to file a lawsuit against Westerly police.

Westerly Town Manager Steven Hartford issued the following statement about the FBI's decision:

"We are certainly relieved to hear that our officers' actions that night have been cleared, once again, by a higher, independent authority with no ties to Westerly or our Police Force. The loss to the family is tragic and probably inconsolable but the officers actions were justified and in accordance with their training. There is simply no disputing that, as hard as it may be for many to accept."

In May, the FBI's Boston office said it received a request to look into the allegation and would review it to see if it had merit. An online petition drive that collected 3,300 signatures had called on the FBI and federal justice officials to investigate O'Loughlin's death.

The FBI stressed, as did Martin on Tuesday, that a review does not mean the FBI is conducting an investigation.

Rosanne Kotowski of Mystic, who helped organize the petition drive after reading about O'Loughlin's death, said Tuesday she was in disbelief over news of the FBI review.

"It's just awful. You feel for his family. How much more can they take. To me, it seems obvious what happened," she said.

She added that the government's refusal to release details of the reviews make O'Loughlin's supporters wonder even more about what happened.

O'Loughlin's death was classified by the Connecticut medical examiner as a homicide after he died at Pequot Health Center in Groton 16 hours after his arrest. He had suffered a dozen injuries, including a lacerated liver.

In February, the Rhode Island Attorney General's Office announced that a grand jury had decided not to indict the three officers who had arrested the 34-year-old Navy veteran. No explanation of the decision was given.

According to reports filed by Westerly police Officer Terence Malaghan and Sgt. David Turano, O'Loughlin swore at them as they questioned him in the early-morning hours of June 9 outside Perks & Corks. Another officer, Greg Barna, told O'Loughlin to put his hands behind his back because he was under arrest, but O'Loughlin refused and resisted being handcuffed, according to the reports.

Barna pepper-sprayed O'Loughlin, who, although "visibly affected" by the spray, continued to refuse to comply with officers' orders, the reports stated.

The reports also stated that Barna began to deliver strikes to O'Loughlin's legs before the officers took O'Loughlin to the ground and struggled with him for a few minutes before placing him in handcuffs.

Later that day, O'Loughlin appeared in Fourth Division District Court in Wakefield, R.I., on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He posted bond and returned home. Late that afternoon he began to vomit, and his wife, Lucia Ochalova, took him to the Pequot Health Center, where he died.

Details of the autopsy report released last fall by the Providence attorney representing the O'Loughlin family indicate that he had suffered injuries to his head, chest, abdomen and legs during the arrest, including the lacerated liver that caused him to bleed to death.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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