Bridgeport, CT — Officer Clive Higgins of the Bridgeport police department,was indicted in August for stomping a subdued man’s head and neck during an arrest. Higgins was accused of using unreasonable force during the course of Orlando Lopez-Soto’s arrest on May 20, 2011, in Beardley Park.
Higgins, 49, was found not guilty Wednesday by a federal jury.
“We respect the jury’s verdict and the criminal justice process,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement. “Our office will continue to prioritize civil rights investigations. We thank the FBI and the prosecutors for their hard work on this case.”
When Higgins was first indicted in August, the US Attorney’s office put out this statement, “The use of unreasonable force during an arrest is not only a clear violation of an individual’s civil rights, but also gravely undermines the community’s trust in law enforcement.”
Video of the incident surfaced nearly a year after the arrest which is when the family of Lopez-Soto filed a lawsuit against the department. With the compelling video showing three officers brutalizing an incapacitated Lopez-Soto, the city agreed to pay out $198,000.
In November of 2013, a $10 million federal lawsuit was filed against the department claiming that the problem of brutality within the Bridgeport police department is systemic and police officials closed their eyes to a rampage by three rogue officers allowing them to leave a nearly two-year trail of abuse and brutality.
In the video, the two officers, Elson Morales and Joseph Lawlor, can be seen kicking the victim repeatedly while he is on the ground. Higgins then arrives in his cruiser, gets out and appears to stomp the downed suspect around the head and neck.
Morales and Lawlor pleaded guilty in June to misdemeanor civil rights charges stemming from the assault. As part of the plea deal, they agreed to resign from the police force.
From what we can see in the video, the actions of Higgins differ very little from those of Morales and Lawlor. It seems as if Higgins’ actions were more sadistic, as Lopez-Soto was obviously no threat by the time Morales and Lawlor issued their beatings. This makes the force applied by Higgins after his arrival even more unreasonable.
“I have no comment on today’s decision. But ultimately, it has no bearing on actions being taken by the Bridgeport Police Department,” police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett Jr. said in a statement.
“Officer Higgins remains on administrative leave from the department. Disciplinary charges have been filed against him, and there is more than one case pending. Now that federal criminal proceedings have concluded, I encourage the Bridgeport Police Commission to continue its efforts to promptly conclude these proceedings against Officer Higgins.”
After watching the video, what do you think? Were the actions of Higgins justified and reasonable considering the situation? What could the defense have said that made a jury think otherwise?
Let us know in the comments below.