Agawam, MA — Three police officers so horrifically beat a man in custody, all of them — a sergeant and two veteran patrolmen — were fired. Now, however, thanks to a corrupt system that fails to hold officers accountable, Mayor William P. Sapelli is rehiring them in spite of the gruesome video showing the abuse.
“You bring them back. It’s that simple,” he said Tuesday, noting that one of the officers, John P. Moccio, has not returned to work. His case is still before the state Civil Service Commission, according to the mayor, who made resolving the issue a priority after taking office in January, according to Masslive.com.
Two of the cops seen horrifically beating the man on video are back on the job and despite being demoted, one officer had his rank of sergeant reinstated.
As TFTP reported at the time, then-Mayor Richard A. Cohen announced the termination of officers, John P. Moccio, Officer Edward B. Connor and Sgt. Anthony Grasso for their roles in the arrest and subsequent beat down of 27-year-old David Desjardins at Six Flags New England on June 19, 2016.
Cohen also forwarded the findings of an internal investigation to the Hampden District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni, who declined to prosecute. However, the beating was so horrific that the FBI launched their own use of force investigation. After more than a year of “investigating,” the FBI concluded the officers acted appropriately when they beat the unarmed and half-naked man.
As TFTP previously reported, that day, Desjardins became too inebriated at a bar in the Six Flags New England amusement park; but when a bartender cut him off, he acted belligerently and began arguing. Park security called the police, MassLive reported at the time, who confronted Desjardins and had to use pepper spray several times before they were able to make the arrest.
Agawam Police Officers Moccio and Connor, and Grasso, then dealt with Desjardins during the booking process, but claimed in reports the man was drunk and unruly — thus their use of force had been justified. Desjardins was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and assault and battery on a police officer.
“Under the policies and procedures, the use of the force was authorized,” said Attorney John Connor, who represented the officers, reported 22News, “They may disagree with that, but that doesn’t mean that these officer didn’t act in accordance with the policies and their training.”
However, video shows Desjardins stripped down to his underwear and seemingly — despite the lack of audio recording — only vaguely disruptive and certainly not deserving of the beating he then receives.
As footage begins, the man sits on a bench in the station and appears to receive a stern talking-to by one officer. Suddenly the officer gestures to another and the pair, along with two others, violently grab Desjardins and force him into a holding cell, containing the typical metal toilet and a concrete slab without any padding.
Desjardins weakly attempts to wriggle free from one officer’s grip and is then roughly forced down onto the concrete slab with three of the four officers holding him down — as one of them uses a baton to beat his back. When that seems not to satisfy the officer, he takes a step back and — as the other two lie on top of the drunken man, holding him down — begins pummeling Desjardins’ kneecaps and ankles with the baton.
Video shows the cops clearly have control of the situation and resistance from Desjardins, if any, is both minimal and likely in self-defense.
As the two officers grip the man’s wrists and head, the third then proceeds to smash the baton against Desjardins’ shins — worse, footage seems to show the tip of the baton being used to jab him in the abdomen or groin.
In obvious pain from this, Desjardins smacks his foot against the concrete slab.
When the officers seem to relent to leave the cell, it becomes apparent one had been using two hands to press the man’s face onto the slab — but even as they move to leave, and he slowly sits up, one officer still casually hits him with the baton.
As Desjardins stands, the verbal altercation continues — but one of the officers then shoves him into the corner of the slab, smashing his head on the concrete and cinder block wall. One officer puts his hands on Desjardins face as if to poke him in the eye or smother him — and though it looks like the beating will begin again, officers cuff his wrists and ankles.
Fully two minutes elapse from the time Moccio, Connor, and Grasso forced Desjardins into the cell until they finally stopped the brutal assault.
Police Chief Eric Gillis was ridiculed for his decision after he fired the officers — but he had no doubt the firings were justified.
“When I saw the video I was shocked by it,” he told MassLive. “I knew that it was very serious and as the investigation proceeded it became more and more clear to me how serious it really was.
“As chief of police it’s my job to make sure that our officers conduct themselves appropriately at all times and deal with the people we come into contact with appropriately at all times.”
Apparently, this has all changed now, and the officers have been rehired. If you’d like to express your peaceful disapproval of a police chief who fired three brutal cops only to rehire them with back pay two years later, you can do so at the department’s Facebook page, here, or call them at (413) 786-4767.