Lawsuit Seeking $20 Million Filed Against Town Of East Hartford, Police

The Hartford Courant

A $20 million lawsuit filed Tuesday against the town and members of the police department claims police conspired to falsely arrest a 12-year-old boy after he was assaulted by an officer at his home.

The lawsuit stems from an incident that occurred on Nov. 15 when Lisa Freeman, a social worker with the Department of Children and Families, called police to the home of Karla Huaman to assist with getting Huaman's son to a court-ordered psychological evaluation related to a truancy problem.

Officer Woodrow F. Tinsley III responded and told the boy, who was wearing only underwear and refusing to get off the couch, that he had "two seconds to get dressed or he would go as he was," according to the lawsuit.

When the boy refused, Tinsley "exploded," according to the lawsuit, put the boy in a headlock and punched him in the face. When Tinsley tried to pull the boy outside in his underwear, the lawsuit states, the boy grabbed both sides of the doorframe and Freeman, "fearing that Tinsley would break the child's arm, pulled the child's hands off the door."

The lawsuit goes on to say that, "despite pleas to stop from Freeman and the child's mother Tinsley continued to assault the child," dragging him back into the apartment and handcuffing him face-down on the floor where he punched him in the face and stomach and "kneed him in the neck and head."

When other officers arrived at the scene, including Officer Kenneth Sullivan and Sergeant Steven Syme, who are named as defendants in the suit along with Tinsley and Police Chief Mark Sirois, police "joked and bragged about beating a Hispanic," saying that "Tinsley's beating of the child was 'good practice' " for his participation in mixed martial arts, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that after Huaman and Freeman complained to the other officers that Tinsley had used excessive force, the officers conferred and "decided to manufacture charges against the child in order to cover up the misconduct."

Tinsley, "at the direction of Syme," arrested the boy and charged him with interfering with an officer and assault on a police officer, the lawsuit states. He then went to DCF offices in Manchester to speak with Freeman, who "rebuffed this attempt and executed a handwritten statement that referenced Tinsley's misconduct and punching of the child."

The boy, who is described in the lawsuit as disabled due to developmental disabilities, including depression and autism, was taken to juvenile court in police custody, released and subsequently received treatment at Connecticut Children's Medical Center for bruising and internal bleeding, according to the lawsuit.

Huaman's lawyer, James Brewer, said in the lawsuit that the criminal charges against the boy were "dismissed with prejudice" by a judge on Monday, meaning that the boy cannot be retried.

Tinsley, 33, was placed on paid administrative leave on Nov. 28 while the department conducted internal and criminal investigations, according to Sirois.

He was returned to active duty on Dec. 21 after the criminal investigation determined there was no probable cause for his arrest, Sirois said. The internal investigation is ongoing and Tinsley may be subject to administrative sanctions, and Sirois said that Hartford State's Attorney Gail Hardy could still bring criminal charges in the case. Hardy has not returned calls seeking comment.

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