New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington asked state police Friday to investigate allegations that Meriden police top brass went easy on Police Chief Jeffry Cossette's son Evan Cossette after the release of a video showing the police officer pushing a drunken, handcuffed arrestee causing him to fall onto a concrete bench in a holding cell at the police department.
"Based on what I saw on news outlets and on additional information I was provided, I thought it was something we should look into," Dearington said.
Dearington was referring to a widely broadcast video of Evan Cossette pushing Pedro Temich in the chest causing him to fall backward and strike his head on the concrete bench about 8 feet away. Temich fractured his skull and received 13 stitches during the May 2010 incident, according to his attorney Sally Roberts of New Britain.
Dearington would not reveal the source of the additional information.
Roberts has filed paperwork with the city on behalf of Temich and two other men indicating their intent to sue Evan Cossette and other police administrators claiming they covered up alleged police brutality.
Evan Cossette has refused to discuss the incidents citing the pending litigation.
An internal affairs report on the Temich incident found that he likely violated police department rules against excessive force. But the violation was later reduced by Deputy Chief Timothy Topulos. Cossette was reprimanded for mishandling a prisoner and required to attend four hours of additional training.
After Cossette received that training, he was involved in two more incidents in which excessive force was alleged. Robert Methvin and Joseph Bryans both of Meriden filed complaints regarding Cossette following their arrests.
According to police and internal affairs reports, Methvin was drunk and disorderly in October 2010 outside his Pasco Street home and needed to be brought under control. Detective John Cerejo had him lying on the ground and was trying to handcuff him when Cossette placed a knee onto his shoulder, according to Cossette's report.
Cossette can be heard on the audio portion of a police cruiser video yelling threats and profanities.
After a struggle, Methvin was left with a deep gash caused by his teeth coming through his lip. He told paramedics he had also experienced recent head trauma from a motorcycle accident, so the paramedics advised Cossette to release him for treatment at MidState Medical Center. Methvin received six staples on his lip.
After the incident, Cerejo can be heard in the audio portion of the video asking what happened to Methvin's face, and Cossette is heard telling him the injury was caused by his knee striking Methvin's face. "I heard like skin on skin," Cerejo says.
Cossette is seen on the cruiser video flexing his knee several times while on the scene.
While officers sometimes issue knee kicks as control measures, a kick to the head is considered use of deadly force, Chief Cossette told the Record-Journal Thursday afternoon, when discussing another officer's discipline.
Chief Cossette won't discuss his son's discipline because it was handled by Deputy Chief Timothy Topulos, and because it's the subject of pending litigation. Topulos did not return a message Friday afternoon.
Internal affairs investigator Sgt. Leonard Caponigro reviewed the Methvin incident and interviewed Evan Cossette about it. Cossette described an agitated and unruly Methvin and the officers' attempts to control him and get him into handcuffs.
Cossette is heard on an audio recording from the hearing telling Caponigro he delivered a knee-strike. In the six-minute interview, Caponigro never asks where Cossette delivered the blow.
Caponigro praises Cossette for writing down Methvin's size and adding other details in his incident report to bolster an internal affairs review. Cossette's incident report mentions the knee-strike but not where it was deli-vered. Caponigro concludes by telling Cossette he is just "going through the motions" and he just needs to speak with Carejo to "close it out."
Caponigro has a seven-minute interview with Carejo who tells Caponigro, "somehow he got an abrasion to his mouth."
Caponigro closed his investigation and cleared Cossette without speaking to Methvin and it remains unclear if the chief or the deputy chief were made aware of the knee-strike to the head.
Caponigro would not comment on specific cases citing the pending litigation and investigation. He did say that generally internal affairs reviews the incident reports and interviews officers and witnesses. Recommendations are based on a "preponderance of evidence."
The third incident in which Evan Cossette was accused of police brutality occurred at MidState Medical Center in January 2011 during the arrest of Joseph Bryans.
Bryans' attorney states that while he was being arrested, Cossette tackled him and hurled him violently to the asphalt after being handcuffed. Cossette allegedly took out his Taser and continued to deliver multiple shocks to Bryans while he was on the ground, Roberts wrote in her intent to sue.
Once Bryans was handcuffed to a hospital bed, Cossette refused to loosen the cuffs on his wrist causing nerve damage, Roberts states in the document.
The two notices of intent to sue over the incidents were followed by a formal complaint to the city drafted by police officers Brian Sullivan and Donald Huston. The men allege nepotism and disparate treatment that favors the chief's allies including Evan Cossette. They asked the City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior to order an independent investigation, which he said earlier this week he would most likely do. Kendzior could not be reached for comment Friday to respond to the state police investigation.
State police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance said investigations into police departments are not uncommon after such allegations. State investigators will review the allegations and bring their findings to Dearington's office.
Chief Cossette said Friday he welcomes the investigation, which he said would reveal that there was no wrong-doing or nepotism within the department.
"I only hope it's short," Cossette said, adding he looks forward to the police department continuing its service to the community uninterrupted. "We have nothing to hide."
Anthony D. Tomassetti, chairman of the City Council's Public Safety Committee, said Friday he couldn't com-ment on specifics of the matter. State police probe or not, however, Tomassetti said he hopes the city will still do its own investigation.
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