HARTFORD — A video released by Connecticut police appears to show a Hartford sergeant stomping on the head of a handcuffed man who was on the ground.
The video was taken June 4 during the arrests of Ricardo Perez and Emilio Diaz after a car chase from Hartford into West Hartford. Police said Perez struck a detective with a stolen car and damaged four police cruisers. Police said that in the course of arresting both men, officers used force, including the use of a taser. Booking photos show the men with serious facial injuries.
The video released Wednesday appears to show Sgt. Sean Spell drop his left leg onto a man's head. It's unclear if the man was Perez or Diaz. Authorities said Spell retired a few weeks ago after 20 years with the department.
A prosecutor is investigating whether he and 30 other Hartford officers involved in the pursuit and arrests used excessive force and will determine if criminal charges are warranted. Police said Spell could possibly face other consequences affecting his retirement and pension.
On Saturday, June 4, police officers of the Hartford and West Hartford Police departments and Connecticut State Police were in a car chase that began in Hartford and ended with the arrest of the driver, Perez, 34, of Hartford, and his passenger, Diaz, 38, of Hartford, in West Hartford.
Police said the chase began when a Hartford Police Officer determined that the car in question was stolen. When police attempted to stop the car, the driver sped off and led police on a chase through several residential streets in Hartford. When the pursuit reached West Hartford, police deployed “stop sticks,” which stopped the car.
Hartford Police released the following statement on Wednesday afternoon:
We have already shared information and had communication with our community about this incident on several occasions. However, we understand those conversations have less of an impact without the video evidence.
In sensitive incidents related to police use of force it has been our practice to release as much information as possible as soon as it is available. This investigation is under the control of the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office and we were specifically instructed not to release the video while their investigation was ongoing. We had sent several requests to the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office (on the record) to share the video with our community and public. Those requests were previously denied. Today, in coordination with Chief Tracy Gove of the West Hartford Police Department, the Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office authorized the release of the video.
We take great care to partner and dialogue with our community every day, and we appreciate our community's input and ideas. As this investigation proceeds, we will continue to share the information we gather and communicate it openly.
Prior to releasing the video to the media, Hartford Police invited community and faith leaders to the department to view the video. Deputy Chief Brian Foley called it a "tough conversation."
"They're trying to be transparent. We're trying to work with them. But I'm sure our community has a lot of questions," said Annette Shack, Vice President of the Greater Hartford chapter of the NAACP, who said she would like to view the videos in their entirety before commenting further.
Attorney Corey Brinson, who's representing Emilo Diaz, sent the following statement to FOX 61:
We believe that my client will ultimately receive justice in a court of law. These officers do not reflect upon the majority of police officers who serve and protect with integrity and honor every day. My client continues to suffer physically and emotionally from this horrific event but he believes that changes to the police department will be forthcoming as a result of this incident.
The State's Attorney's Office said they do not comment on pending investigations. It is unclear when that investigation will be complete and when the results will be released. Hartford Police say their internal investigation into if their officers followed proper policy on pursuit and excessive force can't move forward until then.