Hartford Police Officers Disciplined Following Excessive Force Investigation

Seven Hartford police officers involved in an excessive force investigation have been found in violation of the department’s code of conduct following an internal investigation into an incident in June, according to an internal affairs report released Wednesday.

On June 4, 2016, police began pursuing a driver in a stolen Toyota Camry at Zion and Glendale streets in Hartford who sped off, ran stop signs and led officers through several residential streets before the chase ended on Flatbush Avenue in West Hartford when officers deployed "speed sticks," according to a Hartford police report.

A West Hartford police camera appears to show Hartford officers kicking or stomping one of the two suspects, who was in handcuffs, police said.

The suspects, Ricardo Perez, 34, of Hartford, and Emilio Diaz, 38, of Hartford, had to be hospitalized and Hartford police launched a preliminary investigation the following day when the suspects' bruised and cut faces appeared in mugshots and raised concerns in the department.

The report from the Hartford Police Department said Perez violently struggled with officers and a West Hartford officer used a stun gun, but it did not affect the suspect, so an officer punched Perez in the torso.

Perez's mug shot shows a swollen eye and bandages, while Rivera's shows a gash in his head.

Police said Perez they found PCP and marijuana in the car. Both suspects were charged with drug offenses and Perez was also charged with traffic violations at the time of the incident.

Various officers were involved in this response and the majority of the Hartford officers involved were found to be in compliance with department policy in their use of force.

However, seven officers were found in violation of various department policies and procedures, including excessive use of force.

Hartford Police Deputy Chief Brian Foley said that everyone learned a lesson from this.

"Every cop is this police department's seen what's going on here. Every cop saw the people that just got punished from it, and every cop saw a supervisor get arrested from this."

Officer Ricardo Colon, Officer Stephen Barone and Det. Christopher Mastroianni were all suspended after the investigation determined that they violated the Hartford Police Department’s Code of Conduct. Officer James Prignano and Sgt. Luan Bojka received “oral reprimands” at the conclusion of the investigation.

All of the officers were ordered into remedial training from the Hartford Police Department.

"We are a police department of humans and with humans there are human and emotional errors that do occur," Foley said.

Det. Samuel Cruz was also found to be in violation of the code of conduct, but received no formal discipline because he was out for injuries for five weeks following the incident and was counseled by Internal Affairs and retrained upon his return.

Sgt. Sean Spell was also found to be in violation of the Code of Conduct, but was not subject to discipline because he retired from the department following the pursuit.

Spell was charged with assault in connection with this incident. He pleaded not guilty and the next pre-trial hearing in his case is scheduled for May 11.

The Litchfield State’s Attorney’s Office and Connecticut State Police were responsible for an investigation into whether any criminal charges should be filed.

Hartford police said that neither Perez nor Diaz ever filed a formal citizen's complaint with the department, and they were unwilling to participate in the Internal Affairs review.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin commended the police department's leadership for the transparency and for holding the officers accountable.

“Clearly this is something that we in Hartford take very seriously, that the leadership of this department takes very seriously, and it’s important to us that our police department always has the trust of the community,” Bronin said.

NBC Connecticut has reached out to the Hartford Police Union president for comment but has not yet heard back. NBC Connecticut has also reached out to Diaz's attorney for comment.

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