Norwich police officers violated man’s civil rights

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NORWICH- A federal jury in Connecticut has ruled in favor of a Norwich man, deciding that his civil rights were violated by two police officers in November 2010.

Steven Hyppolite, 39, says he was "beaten up" by the officers in front of his home without cause after returning from the grocery store one evening.

Now, nearly five years later, the court system determined that he was right.

It all started with a 911 call to the Norwich Police Department.

Dispatcher: "What's your emergency?"

Caller: Somebody's over here on Boswell right near 12th and she screamed at me, help, he won't get out of my vehicle, she's in a pickup truck."

Dispatchers sent officers to the scene after the call.

The problem is that Steven Hyppolite lives on 13th street, not 12th street, and he was in his friend's BMW, not a pickup truck.

The 911 call was about a totally different person. Yet officers questioned Hyppolite and it escalated, quickly. "They came down, flashed their lights, asked questions and next thing you know I'm getting beat up, hit in the face, hit in the back," said Hyppolite.

He told the jury his head was slammed on the hood of the car, creating injuries both physical and mental. Hyppolite told Fox CT he went into a coma and spent days in the hospital, leading to $400,000 in medical bills.

"I repeatedly got punched," said Hyppolite.

He was briefly detained on the street but was never arrested or charged with any crime.

He filed a civil rights complaint and a lawsuit requesting $10 million.

After a three-day trial in Bridgeport this February, nearly five years after the incident, the jury found the officers did in fact violate Hyppolite's rights by using "unreasonable force."

He was awarded just over $1,400 because the jury determined he was not injured.

"I've had so many nights where I was ready to give up, but I didn't give up, because I knew what I was doing, it was the right thing to do," said Hyppolite.

The responsible officers, Daniel Collins and Joel Grispino, remain on the force.

Police Chief Louis Fusaro didn't respond to our requests for comment, but did tell the Norwich Bulletin: "The minimal amount of the award shows volumes about what the jury was thinking."

Meanwhile, Hyppolite said the victory isn't about the money, rather about making a statement amid other cases in Ferguson and Staten Island.

"I'm not satisfied with it but this is a start because the verdict shows that something happened," said Hyppolite.

Hyppolite said he will likely appeal the judgment and seek more money. He may also try to bring the case to state court, filing suits against the city and police department.