Two Watertown police officers have been cleared in federal court of charges that they used excessive force during a 2002 arrest of an 80-year-old man.
Frank Salvucci, now 86, of Watertown, accused Keith Parent, 34, and Orlando Rodriguez, 52, of violating his civil rights when they arrested him for allegedly trespassing on a neighbor's property on June 21, 2002. Salvucci filed a civil suit against the officers in US District Court in Boston.
Salvucci told the jury he was in his son's yard to mow the lawn that morning when a neighbor, Francis Dumornay, accused him of blocking a shared driveway and called police. Salvucci stated that Parent, Rodriguez, and Sergeant Joseph Deignan arrived and told him he must get off Dumornay's property. But after he told the officers that the driveway belonged to his son, Salvucci said, they pushed him to the ground, punched him in the kidney, and handcuffed him, and used so much force that he sustained a dislocated shoulder and a torn rotator cuff.
He also said the officers later altered incident reports to make it appear that Salvucci had been uncooperative in order to cover up their mistreatment of him.
Douglas I. Louison, a lawyer representing the police, told the jury Deignan had tried to reason with an irate Salvucci for several minutes before the officers took him into custody in a professional and legally appropriate manner. Salvucci, who was later convicted of trespassing, was angry at being arrested and mentioned some minor discomfort in his shoulder only once during booking at the police station, Louison said.
Police Chief Edward Deveau said he was pleased after the jury reached its verdict exonerating the officers last Thursday afternoon. "It's a good decision, we're very happy about it," said Deveau, who added he was grateful town officials did not seize on an opportunity to settle the case before trial. "All along we felt they had done nothing wrong," he said.
Salvucci and his son, Frank Jr., said they were "very disappointed" with the verdict and were at a loss to understand how the jury decided in favor of the police. "I feel bad about it," said Salvucci.
"It can't be explained," said his son, who said he wasn't sure whether the family would appeal, after having already spent more than four years pursuing the case in several courts.
Deveau said Watertown police were already very familiar with the Salvucci property and the neighbor troubles before the June 2002 incident. Police had been called to the Salvucci home between 30 and 40 times from 2001 to 2002 to resolve an ongoing feud between Salvucci's son and Dumornay, he said.
Given the frequency and contentious nature of the disputes, police had stepped up their staffing when responding to complaints at Salvucci's Falmouth Street address, said Deveau, requiring two officers and a supervisor to be present at all times.