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Injustice in Westerly

Published July 20. 2012 4:00AM

It appears there will be no justice for the late Ryan O'Loughlin, at least in criminal court. Equal treatment under the law does not seem to apply in this case. How does a man die from injuries suffered from a beating and no one gets charged with anything? At least in this case, it is when police officers administer the beating.

At 1 a.m. on June 9, 2011, Westerly Police responded to a reported disturbance at the Perks & Corks bar on High Street in that town. Mr. O'Loughlin, a 34-year-old Navy veteran, ended up getting involved in a confrontation with the arriving officers. He refused to be handcuffed and a struggle ensued. Police charged him with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

After a night in the Westerly jail, Mr. O'Loughlin appeared the next morning in court, gained his release and returned to his Mystic home. He became very ill and was rushed to the Pequot Health Center, where he died, 16 hours after his arrest.

The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide, due to "blunt abdominal trauma." Mr. O'Loughlin sustained 12 separate injuries to his head, chest, abdomen and legs. A lacerated liver - meaning the gashing and splitting of the organ - caused fatal internal bleeding.

A Rhode Island grand jury subsequently failed to indict any of the officers. The evidence it reviewed was sealed.

"The Statewide Grand Jury found that the actions of the officers were legally justified," the attorney general's office announced. Authorities provided no further explanation.

This week the FBI announced it had reviewed the case and decided not to get involved. The agency found nothing to make it a federal matter.

The family is pursuing a civil suit against the department and the officers. Perhaps that process will provide more information about what happened to Ryan O'Loughlin. But that is of little solace.

It is chilling to think that police can take someone into custody, release them hours later with fatal injuries indicative of a beating, and not be held accountable. There are places in the world where that happens, but this is not supposed to be one of those places.

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