Springfield’s mayor says that the city is reviewing its legal options, and the City Council has scheduled a special meeting, following a $250,000 federal jury verdict against the city in a case of alleged police brutality.
A federal jury decided Wednesday to award $250,000 in damages to Lee Hutchins, Sr. in connection with the actions of three officers while dealing with a domestic incident at Hutchins’ Springfield home back on January 20, 2013.
According to the suit filed by Hutchins, he was trying to help police deescalate a tense situation at the home involving other members of his family, when he was pepper sprayed by Officer Daniel McKay. Hutchins also alleged that later, as he was still suffering from the effects of the pepper spray, he was struck twice with a police baton by Officer Thomas Hervieux; knocking him to the ground.
In their decision, the jury found that the plaintiff proved the city was “deliberately indifferent to the civil rights of its citizens, through a policy or custom or adequately supervising or disciplining its officers”. The jury found that Hervieux used excessive force in the incident, but did not find McKay did so, as the plaintiff had alleged. The jury, however, also found that the plaintiff proved Officer McKay and Officer Felix Romero (the third officer named in the lawsuit) had unlawfully entered Hutchins’ home.
Mayor Domenic Sarno issued a statement following the jury’s verdict, saying that the City will consider its options going forward. “Domestic violence calls are very dangerous and difficult confrontational situations for our brave and dedicated men and women in blue. Our Law Department is currently reviewing the decision for possible recourse options,” Sarno stated.
Meanwhile, City Councilor Orlando Ramos, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee, has scheduled a meeting to discuss this case. The meeting will be held Monday night at 4:00 at Springfield City Hall, though Ramos noted it could go into executive session- which would in that case exclude members of the media and the public from attending.