FBI investigates after RI cop is accused of beating suspect in attack caught on video

Thursday, December 17, 2009

FBI investigating after video shows RI cop beating

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The FBI is investigating Providence police after an officer was caught on videotape beating a restrained suspect, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office said Thursday.

A separate probe by the attorney general into the Oct. 20 arrest of Luis Mendonca will continue as the FBI conducts its own investigation, attorney general spokesman Michael Healey told The Associated Press.

The FBI would not confirm or deny an investigation, and Providence police did not immediately comment. The FBI investigation was first reported by WPRI-TV.

Surveillance video from the arrest in a parking lot shows police surrounding an apparently handcuffed Mendonca as one officer kicks and strikes him.

A lawyer for the 20-year-old Mendonca has said his client was so badly hurt that he was in a coma for two days and needed staples to close a gash in his head.

Cliff Montiero, head of the Providence branch of the NAACP, said he asked the FBI on Monday to investigate. He also spoke with Mendonca’s family, and said they filed a complaint Monday with the FBI. Montiero said he visited Mendonca on Wednesday at the state prison, where he is being held as a probation violator.

“He was angry and felt he hadn’t done anything wrong,” Montiero said. “He didn’t understand why they had to beat him so badly.”

Police have previously said that Mendonca was stopped by campus police for the Rhode Island School of Design, then told he could go but struck one of the officers and ran away as they waited for Providence police to arrive. A group of officers tracked him down in a parking lot, where his arrest was videotaped by a nearby surveillance camera.

A spokeswoman for RISD did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the FBI investigation.

Two unidentified Providence officers were placed on administrative duty earlier this month.

Montiero, a former Providence police officer and deputy sheriff, said the case had been “terribly handled,” and that he believed if there was no videotape the officers would not have been disciplined at all.

“If a Providence police officer, or several of them, go to jail over this, it’s going to send a lesson to all police officers,” he said. “It’s your job to detain them, not to punish them.”

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