Cape Verdean Family Accuses Brockton Cops of Illegal Entry to Home Excessive Force; Trial Begins Today
Brockton, Mass. - Officers of the Brockton Police Department are due in court this week in a lawsuit that comes from their handling of a noise complaint in 2008.
A trial is set to begin next week after four family members launched a civil suit in November 2011 against the officers alleging warrantless entry, excessive force, indifference to medical needs, assault and battery, and arrest without probable cause.
If the jury finds in favor, the plaintiffs could be awarded punitive damages and compensation for injuries allegedly received as a result of the police action.
The trial will be heard by Judge Judith Dein at the US District Court in Boston when jury selection begins today.
The events of the night of November 15, 2008 are hotly disputed by members of the Barbosa family and the Brockton Police Department.
Plaintiffs in the case are Henriqueta, Manuel, and Maria Barbosa with an address at 22 Leavitt St., Brockton, and Angela Barbosa with an address at 231 Tremont St., Apt. 2, Taunton.
Defendants named in the suit are Officers Thomas Hyland, Jesse Drane, Brian Donahue, Steven Johnson, Frank Baez, Emanuel Gomes, and Leon McCabe of the Brockton Police Department, 7 Commercial St., Brockton.
According to the plaintiff’s complaints, the Barbosas had gathered for a celebration at their home at 22 Leavitt Street in Brockton.
About 15 people were gathered at the house that night – seven of those under nine years old - for the traditional Cape Verdean event known as a Sete, which marks the seventh day after the birth of Jezmany Andrade.
The owner of the house, then 50 year old Henriqueta Barbosa was washing dishes, while her husband then 56 year old Manuel and four of the young children were sleeping nearby.
At around 11pm, Henriqueta saw two police officers – identified as Officers Thomas Hyland and Brian Donahue – inside her home. She had not heard them announce their arrival, she had not invited them in, and neither did they have a warrant.
The officers were following a complaint about loud music received by the Department from a neighbor of the Barbosas.
In deposition testimony, Officer Hyland insists that when outside, he announced more than once that the police were at the house, but received no response from anyone inside.
He says, “When we got to the street, we were listening for music. I got about a hundred feet away and I could hear, like, low base sounding music.”
The plaintiffs’ complaint says the family was “shocked” at the officers’ claim to be there about the noise, because they say their music wasn’t loud, and family members were able to sleep despite the alleged volume of the music.
After announcing his arrival, Hyland claims someone said to him, “We'll turn the music down, but we are going to just turn it up again when you leave.”
At this point, Hyland and Donahue enter the house.
In deposition, Hyland says, “Did I feel that I had the right to enter the house without a warrant …., no. However, I did enter that house to stop the music because the time that it would take to obtain a search warrant to merely get into a house to quell a disturbance would be unreasonable … so I felt justified going into the house and merely having the music stopped or at least lowered.”
Hyland then goes upstairs and asks a man who he claims is a DJ – wearing headphones, and playing extremely loud music on turntables from large speakers on either side of him – to turn the music off.
He testifies that the speakers were around three feet high, and standing on a pedestal.
In deposition, Henriqueta’s daughter and mother of newborn Andrade, then 19 year old Angela Barbosa, disputes the claim that there was a DJ playing loud music and says it was played, “By a regular radio that was there. My mom’s old-fashioned radio that was there with, like, two small, little speakers ….”
The alleged DJ, Antonio DaVeiga, testified that he went upstairs to turn down the music as soon as he saw the lights of a police cruiser outside the house.
He claims that by the time he got upstairs the police were already in the house and an officer was upstairs telling him to turn it all the way down, which he did.
Plaintiffs’ Counsel Charles Kazarian asked Hyland in deposition why he didn’t leave after the music has been shut off.
According to Hyland, “Because I was already told that as soon as I do leave, it's going to go up again anyway, so now I want to identify the owner of the house so that I can at least take some kind of legal position when the disturbance goes back up.”
Hyland says he wanted a name and date of birth from Henriqueta, and that if she didn’t supply the information she was subject to “anticipatory breach of the peace.”
In deposition, Kazarian challenged Hyland on the alleged violation, asking “Did you make that up?” Hyland answered that he had not, and that he believes it’s a crime on the state’s books.
In testimony, former Brockton Police Chief William Conlon, describes the crime of anticipatory breach of the peace as, “…the same as disturbance of the peace only it's quite evident that this is about to take place.”
Conlon also testified that the department’s policy on noise complaints in November 2008 was that officers should leave when the music is turned down.
At this point, Hyland alleges that someone said to him, “You don’t know what you’ve walked into.”
Officer Donahue also alleges that he felt the situation could get out of control, and that Angela’s boyfriend and the father of newborn Jezmany, John Andrade asked him, “Why are you grilling me?”
Hyland then placed a call for support on his radio, and more members of the Brockton Police Department arrived and entered the home; Officers Michael Dube, Jesse Drane, and Sergeants Mark Celia, Kenneth Lofstrom and Bryan Maker.
When the officers asked for identification from each individual in the house, family members began questioning the officers about their right to enter the home without consent or warrant.
The plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that the officers became enraged by the family’s question, and began using derogatory and racist names towards them, such as “bitches,” “dump hoes,” and “immigrants,” as well as telling them to “go back to your country.”
The Barbosa family is originally from Cape Verde – a volcanic island nation off the coast of west Africa – but they are naturalized US citizens.
Angela testifies that, “My baby's father [John] told the police officer that they had no rights to walk in there without knocking, that, you know, they didn't have a warrant to walk inside the house. That's the only thing I remember him telling the police.”
The officers then ordered all of the adults to leave the home, including home owners Henriqueta and Manuel, but the family claims that this would’ve left young children without adult supervision.
Henriqueta attempted to explain this to the officers in broken English, which she does not speak conversantly.
Hyland testifies that, “I specifically remember [John] Andrade not moving, like he's not leaving the residence. I pointed to him and specifically said to him, "it's time to go," and he folded his arms in front of him, shook his head side to side saying no, and retreated into that … galley kitchen.”
Asked by Counselor Kazarian, what was his legal basis for insisting Andrade leave the house, Hyland testifies, “He did not establish that he lived there, I was shutting the party down ….”
Hyland says that he followed Andrade into the kitchen area, and is not certain whether he had handcuffed him or not, when he felt a strong blow on the back of his head.
He alleges that he turned around to see Henriqueta holding a silverware strainer, which she had used to him hit in the head, and with the silverware now all over the floor.
Officer Jesse Drane, testifies that, “As soon as Hyland and Donahue grabbed the male party to place him under arrest or escort him out, another female in the pantry area came up behind officer Hyland with a silverware strainer and cracked him right over the head with [it].”
This allegation is disputed by family members, none of whom testified that this incident took place.
In deposition, Henriqueta instead claims that Hyland fell saying, “When he puts the cuffs on John, he tripped. He went on top of me, and we fell [on] top of the dish washer.” Also Angela claims she witnessed Hyland trip and fall.
At this point, the plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that Hyland grabbed Henriqueta and threw her against a wooden closet door, before lifting her up and throwing her outside onto a wooden porch.
Defense counsel, Stephen Pfaff, asked Henriqueta in deposition if she was fighting with Hyland, to which she replied, “He would put me in his pocket. How could I fight with a person that his height would go almost to the roof of my house?”
Henriqueta was arrested and alleges that her arm was “black and blue” from where she was thrown “against the door,” and believing her arm to be broken, she claims she repeatedly requested for handcuffs to be taken off her.
When Angela Barbosa objected to the treatment of her mother she was also arrested.
Hyland testifies that, “When I'm standing outside the galley … peripherally I can see who I recognize now as Angela Barbosa. She's approaching me angrily, very fast, and she whips what I thought was a red cell phone at my leg.”
Drane testifies that, “After we restrained -- placed the female, older female under arrest for her actions, there was another female to my left yelling and screaming about something. All of a sudden she took out a phone, a cell that was in her hand, and she tossed it and hit one of the officers ….”
Angela denies that she ran at Hyland or threw anything, and alleges she was shoved against a stove by Drane when she questioned the officers’ arrest of her mother.
She testifies that she was then dragged by her hair to a police cruiser causing pain on her scalp, and that the site of an incision during a caesarian section giving birth to her son Jezmany started to bleed.
Pfaff questioned Angela in deposition about the comments she allegedly made to officers, but she denies she said, "Fuck these pigs. Come on you guys. They can't do this shit.”
Both Barbosa women and John Andrade were taken to the Brockton Police Station on Commercial Street.
At the station, the plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that the officers concocted phony charges – including assault and battery with a dangerous weapon – in order to justify their actions at the Barbosa house.
After receiving word of the arrests, two of Henriqueta’s other daughters, Maria and Nilda Barbosa, went to the station to bail them out and ask for medical treatment for the women in custody.
Then 21 year old Maria alleges that both of them sought information from an officer at the station, Steven Johnson, but claims that he ignored them, telling them only to come back in half an hour.
Maria claims she then asked for the names and badge numbers of the officers that had been in her parents’ home that night, and that Johnson then demanded she and her sister leave the station and return later.
Johnson disputes the claim, and instead alleges that Maria was verbally abusive to officers at the station, including him, and only then asked her to leave.
He testifies in deposition that, “I told her the process of the booking area and how long it was going to take, and from her yelling and screaming and calling out obscenities at myself and the other officers that locked up her family, I didn't believe she should have been there at the time. She should have left and come back at a later time.”
Johnson alleges that Maria began screaming at the officers who arrested her family when she arrived at the station, and calling the officers “white fucking pigs.”
Maria claims she insisted on waiting inside the station, as it was only going to take half an hour to process her family members.
The plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that this enraged Johnson, who came out from behind the window screaming, “You stupid bitch! I told you to leave!”
He allegedly pushed Maria to the exit, and once outside, he closed his fist and swung three times at Maria.
It’s alleged that Johnson then dragged her back into the station, got behind her, slammed her down onto a metal bench and handcuffed her with the assistance of several other officers.
The defense argues that Maria was arrested by Johnson only with the assistance of one other officer, Frank Baez, because she was being disruptive.
The plaintiffs allege that Johnson also grabbed Maria’s head and slammed it on the metal bench and punched her in the face during her arrest, resulting in severe cuts.
Protesting this, Maria claims she called the officers “woman beaters,” to which she was allegedly told, “Shut the fuck up or that will happen to the other side of your face.”
Video surveillance tape from the lobby at Brockton Police Station is missing and will not be submitted into evidence during trial.
Maria was then handcuffed along with her mother and sister to a metal bar in the station’s garage rather than a cell.
There the three women allege that they were subject to constant harassment and verbal abuse by police officers.
Maria alleges she was called an “animal,” and they were all told to go “call Obama,” and to “go back to your country.” Another officer allegedly said to them, “I hate you people … Cape Verdean people.”
The plaintiffs’ complaint claims that Nilda and Maria called an ambulance for Henriqueta and Angela while at the station, but that this was cancelled by police officers.
An ambulance was later called by a female police officer who examined the injuries sustained by the women, and they were taken to the emergency room directly from the station.
Court records don’t identify what happened to Angela’s boyfriend, John Andrade, at the station and he is not a plaintiff in the case.
Maria claims she suffered severe trauma to her eye during her arrest by Johnson, and continues to suffer migraines and facial twitching as a result. She claims she has been diagnosed with PTSD and post-concussive headache syndrome.
Henriqueta claims that she suffered an injury to her shoulder, which caused her to miss two weeks of work and now requires surgery.
Angela claims she needed immediate medical attention for abdominal bleeding, and has also been diagnosed with cervical myalgia. Also all three women claim they suffer emotional harm.
Henriqueta’s husband, Manuel, though not physically harmed, claims to suffer mental and emotional injuries as a result of the arrest of his wife and daughters.
In a summary judgment by Judge Dein, the plaintiffs agreed that the claims against other defendants be dismissed. Former Brockton Police Chief William Conlon, Sergeants Bryan Maker, Kenneth Lofstrum, Mark Celia, and Officers, Michael Dube, and Anthony Giardini are no longer named in the lawsuit.
A number of evidence exhibits are expected to be shown at trial, including the criminal record of Maria, the criminal disposition of Angela and Henriqueta from Brockton District Court, medical records and expenses for all three women, document from the Internal Affairs Divisions, and the three women’s booking photos.
Open Media Boston's Jonathan Adams will be covering court proceedings around the Boston area in the public interest in the months to come.
Correction (1/30/14): Due to a reporting error, figures given for potential punitive damages were incorrect.