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Jury awards Montville grandfather $50,000 in damages in excessive-force suit against New London police

By Greg Smith

Publication: theday.com

Published June 03. 2014 10:15PM   Updated June 04. 2014 12:03AM

A jury awarded a Montville man $50,000 in damages Monday for his claim that New London police used excessive force when they arrested him following a brawl at a New London junior boys’ varsity basketball game in 2010.

Robert D. Crawford filed the federal civil suit against a host of officers involved in his Feb. 4, 2010, arrest at New London High School.

Police were called to the school after a fight broke out on the court between players from the New London and Griswold squads. Crawford, 64 at the time and attending the game to watch his grandson play, left the stands and jumped into the fray.

Crawford claims in his suit that security could not control the fight and after watching a New London player assault both a Griswold player and the player’s mother, “decided to take action to protect the woman and other people from the New London player.”

He brought the New London player to the ground and held him for security, he claims.

Police claim that after the fight broke out, Crawford tackled the player, brought him to the ground and punched him several times.

A video of the incident was presented as evidence to an eight-member jury in federal court in New Haven and appears to show Crawford throwing several punches, though there are gaps in the recording, according to court records.

Police arrived after the fight had died down and after interviewing witnesses and watching the video decided to charge Crawford.

During his arrest, Crawford claims police pushed him against the wall, put his hands behind his back, grabbed him by the throat and pulled backward. He said police slammed his head into the floor and kneeled on his back, fracturing a tooth and dislocating his jaw.

Police told a different story, claiming Crawford was verbally confrontational, yelling, using profanity and had tensed up and pushed off the wall while police tried to handcuff him. None of the officers struck or pushed Crawford while he was on the ground, police claimed. Some video footage of the incident in the hallway shows Crawford facing the wall and then falling backward to the ground, though it is unclear whether he pushed or was pulled, court records show. There was also no audio on the recording.

Crawford said he has sought treatment for his tooth and jaw injury, headaches, back and shoulder pain, anxiety, mental anguish, depression and anxiety

After the incident, Crawford was charged with third-degree assault, interfering with an officer and risk of injury to a minor. He claims in the suit the case was never prosecuted.

Crawford had initially filed a 10-count complaint claiming excessive force, false arrest, malicious prosecution, assault and battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress among other claims.

The jury, over the course of the trial that wrapped up on Monday, took up only the issues of excessive force and failure to intervene. The jury cleared six of the seven officers named in the suit, ruling that former Officer Graham Mugovero used excessive force. Mugovero retired in 2010.

Crawford did not return a call seeking comment and New London Deputy Police Chief Peter Reichard said he could not comment on the matter.

g.smith@theday.com 

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