Erie officer striking suspect’s head 7 times

An Erie police officer repeatedly punched a suspect in the head during a violent arrest outside a west Erie tavern in November, new surveillance video shows.

The video became public Monday at a hearing in Erie County Court. The suspect, 32-year-old Lee McLaurin, faces charges including possession with intent to deliver cocaine and resisting arrest stemming from his encounter with police on Nov. 23.

The footage shows two officers attempting to control McLaurin’s arms as they work to arrest him in an alley. Early in the confrontation, another officer approaches and begins striking McLaurin in the head.

The video shows the officer striking McLaurin’s head seven times before McLaurin falls to the ground. The officer was identified in court Monday as Patrolman Nicholas Strauch.

McLaurin filed a citizens complaint with the Erie Bureau of Police last week and the incident is now under investigation by the bureau’s internal affairs unit, Chief Dan Spizarny said Monday afternoon.

Spizarny said he had reviewed the surveillance video, which shows the alley beside Sophia’s Tavern, at 514 Cherry St.

He declined to comment in detail on the incident because of the internal investigation and because McLaurin’s lawyer, Gene Placidi, in April filed notice of possible legal action with the city of Erie.

In general, Spizarny said, police use of force “may be lawful but look awful.”

He said Erie police’s use of force policy “absolutely” allows for the use of strikes to a suspect’s head or face, depending on the circumstances.

“Striking blows are sometimes used during an arrest,” he said.

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