The officer who is a target in a federal probe of the police department claimed he pushed a handcuffed prisoner because the man had spun toward him in a threatening manner and invaded his personal space.
But a review of the security tapes of the May 2010 incident involving Evan Cossette, the police chief's son, and the prisoner, Pedro Temich, shows there is about a six to eight second gap in the security tapes that could have been picked up by a camera in the booking area outside the holding cell. Police now say that tape has been erased.
Meriden police turned over the holding cell video to FBI agents late last week as part of the joint federal and state investigation into allegations that a series of police brutality complaints against Evan Cossette were dismissed because his father, Jeffry Cossette, is the police chief.
There are two videos: The first shows Cossette walking Temich from his cruiser out of the sally port to book him. The second video shows what happened inside the holding cell when Cossette pushed Temich down.
The gap in the security videos already made public by police could have shown what happened when Cossette escorted a handcuffed Temich through the sally port doors and walked him over to a holding cell less than 20 feet from those doors. It could also show what happened as Cossette opened the holding cell door.
In his interview with internal affairs, Cossette said that as he opened the holding cell door Temich "spun around and invaded my personal space."
"I became fearful that he (Temich) was going to continue to be combative and possibly headbutt me or even kick me as he attempted to do at the scene,'' Cossette told Sgt. Leonard Caponigro during the interview.
The Courant asked Jeffry Cossette a series of questions about the gap in the security tapes last week and he didn't respond.
Attorney Sally Roberts, who is representing Temich, requested the security tapes from the booking area for the night Temich was arrested and was told last week by Caponigro, the head of internal affairs, that the "camera system does not support video from that far back."
Caponigro told her that the videotapes are saved for 30 days and then erased.
The missing tape became an issue during Cossette's internal affairs interview as well when union steward John T. Williams asked Caponigro about the gap between the tape showing Cossette bringing Temich through the sally port door and what happened inside the holding cell.
Caponigro seemed to indicate that he had watched that tape even though it was well after the 30-day storage period because the initial unnecessary force complaint against Cossette wasn't filed until more than six weeks after the May 1 incident.
"What about the camera outside the door in the center area there?'' Williams asked.
"Yeah, I don't think it caught anything because when they opened the door it blocked the view,'' Caponigro responded.
The videotape picks up again with Temich, his hands cuffed behind him, backing into the cell and Cossette pushing him with two hands. Temich is at least two full steps into the cell when Cossette pushes him, which seems to contradict the officer's version.
Cossette said that he couldn't close the holding cell door and that he was fearful for his own safety so he gave Temich a "firm push back in order to get him into the cell."
"Unfortunately he was too intoxicated and fell down and bumped his head and then we rendered medical assistance,'' Cossette said, adding that he later found out at MidState Medical Center that Temich's blood-alcohol level was 0.321, four times the legal limit.
The video shows Temich falling backward and cracking his head on a concrete bench in the back of the cell. It required 12 sutures at the hospital to close the wound, Roberts said.