Use of force investigations have been launched by both the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and Massachusetts State Police after video emerged of multiple officers beating a surrendering motorist who had led them on a high-speed pursuit.
That chase began after 50-year-old Richard Simone, wanted on several outstanding warrants including assault, refused to stop for police in Holden, Massachusetts, around 4 pm on Wednesday afternoon. For about an hour, Holden dodged police from both Massachusetts and neighboring New Hampshire, occasionally reaching speeds of up to 90 mph on the highway.
Simone weaved through traffic — at one point hitting a utility pole — as law enforcement officers from both states repeatedly tried to pull him over without success. At some point during the pursuit, Simone’s gray pickup lost two of its tires; but as sparks flew, he continued driving.
Eventually, in Nashua, New Hampshire — as captured in footage from news helicopters — Simone stopped, exited his vehicle calmly in surrender, and willingly proceeded to lie face down on the ground for his inevitable arrest.
After Simone lay prone on the asphalt, at least six police officers from various agencies proceeded to beat him relentlessly as neighborhood children watched, in what appears to be — for all intents and purposes — retaliatory use of force for Simone having fled the original stop.
“He was surrendering, you know, he gave up — but I was like, ‘Oh my god, they’re really attacking him,’” Simone’s sister told 7 News. “It was very shocking, to say the least. Disturbing to see that and to see when someone willingly gets out of the vehicle, goes to their knees, flat out on their stomach, their hands out — very shocking.”
As footage spread through social media, the Governor of New Hampshire called for a full investigation of the incident. New Hampshire’s attorney general and Massachusetts State Police will also fully investigate both the pursuit and events leading up to it, as well as the use of force.
According to a statement from the department, Massachusetts State Police will conduct “Our standard review of the pursuit itself, by our departmental Pursuit Review Committee, to ensure that it adhered to our departmental pursuit policy. We have a rigorous policy that governs how and when pursuits may be authorized and what criteria must be met for the pursuit to be allowed to continue. The policy also establishes guidelines for terminating pursuits.
“We will conduct a separate departmental review of the actual apprehension, as the video captured by news helicopters shows a use of force against the suspect. This review will investigate whether the level of force used was appropriate given the totality of the circumstances.”
This beating of a surrendering suspect, no matter Simone’s prior criminal history nor the outstanding warrants, appears on its surface to be excessive and unjustified. Law enforcement departments around the country mostly maintain restrictions for the use of force conditional on the belief an officer feels his or another person’s life may be in jeopardy.
Despite the high-speed pursuit just prior, Simone — prone on the ground and appearing to comply with officers’ orders — does not appear to be any kind of threat at the time he was brutally beaten.
Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.