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Providence, Dean Esserman & RISD Named in Police Beating Victim’s $7 Million Suit

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


The Cape Verdean man who was seen on video being beaten with a flashlight by a Providence Police Officer claims he was "unlawfully arrested, harassed, assaulted, battered, humiliated and maliciously prosecuted,” in civil suit filed against more than a dozen defendants, including the city of Providence, former Police Chief Dean Esserman and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

In a 13-count complaint filed Nov. 21, lawyers for Luis Mendonca accused the defendants of conspiring to violate his civil rights and the city of Providence and RISD of a failure to train their public safety officers. The other counts include assault and battery, malicious prosecutions and false imprisonment. Mendonca is seeking $7 million.

The incident occurred in October 2009 when Mendonca was chased by RISD security guards who believed he was trespassing in a campus dorm. DeCarlo, a member of the Providence Police Department Robbery Squad, responded to call for an alleged robbery and Mendonca had already been apprehended near a parking lot on Benefit Street.

While being escorted through the parking lot, DeCarlo was caught on video surveillance beating Mendonca with a flashlight. DeCarlo was originally convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, but now-retired Judge Francis Darigan vacated the conviction after claiming a state prosecutor told the jury that a witness to the incident said, “Bobby, stop it. You're going to kill him" to DeCarlo. Darigan had previously informed prosecutors that that statement was inadmissible in court.

Last February, Darigan ruled that DeCarlo could not be re-tried on assault charges. DeCarlo remains on unpaid leave from the Providence Police Department.

"The Office respectfully disagrees with the decision by Justice Darigan to grant the defense motion to dismiss the indictment on the grounds of double jeopardy, and remains confident in the case presented by the State,” Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said at the time. “As with any matter of this nature, the Office will review the transcripts and the ruling and will make a determination whether to appeal the ruling."

Suit: Police Used Excessive Force

The 18-page complaint makes the case that Mendonca, who served three months in prison following the incident and was nearly deported after being charged with shoplifting in an unrelated incident, deserves to be compensated for being the victim of police brutality.

“As a result of the unwarranted use of excessive force, Mr. Mendonca suffered grievous injuries including contusions, dental reconstruction, coma and psychological injuries including but not limited to mental anguish,” the suit states.

The suit also charges that the city “grossly failed to train its police officers in the fundamental law of arrest, seizure and prosecution in that members of its Police Department engaged in a practice of using excessive force in bring warranted criminal charges without due consideration for the protection of individual civil liberties."

The suit singles out former Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman, claiming he “failed to take any preventative or remedial measures to guard against the conduct” of his officers.

“Had Chief Dean Esserman taken such measures, Mr. Mendonca would not have suffered the deprivation of his rights full set forth herein,” the suit states. “The failure of Chief Dean Esserman amounted to deliberate indifference or deliberate misconduct, which directly caused the deprivations suffered by Mr. Mendonca. Chief Dean Esserman failed to train, supervise, and discipline the Defendent officers, and said failure caused Mr. Mendonca damages."

Esserman is the Police Chief in the city of New Haven. A spokesman for the New Haven Police Department declined to comment.

Defendant Accused of Conspiring

Mendonca’s lawyers also accuse the defendants of conspiring to intentionally submit false police reports, statements and testimony to "support and corroborate the fabricated charges lodges against "Mr. Mendoca."

“The Defendants agreed and acted intentionally to omit certain witness statements favorable to Mr. Mendonca and failed to interview other witnesses to the assault," the suit claims.

The case was originally expected to be heard before Judge Jack McConnell, but McConnell rescued himself and it was assigned to Judge William E. Smith. On Tuesday, lawyers for the Providence Police Department filed a motion to dismiss.

“All claims brought against the Providence Police Department should be dismissed because it is not a legal entity subject to suit,” the Department argues. “Municipal agencies are not entities capable of being sued; they are merely administrative arms of a municipality that do not have a legal identity separate and apart from the municipality itself.”

Mendonca’s suit is below:



Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan.


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