SEABROOK — Three police officers have been placed on administrative leave and town officials are scrambling for answers after a 4-year-old video uploaded onto YouTube this week shows one officer slamming a young man’s head against a cement wall inside the Liberty Lane police station.
Town Manager Bill Manzi would not immediately disclose the names of the officers pending a police investigation into the incident conducted by Chief Lee Bitomske. Manzi added that it’s possible that an outside agency will be hired to assist the investigation.
“While the investigation is conducted, no town official will be able to offer additional comment beyond this statement,” Manzi said.
The roughly 4-minute video, titled “police brutality in seabrook,” and shot by a cell hall camera on Nov. 11, 2009, at a few minutes before midnight, shows the suspect being led down a hall by a police officer while two others walk alongside. Seconds later, the officer throws the suspect’s head against the wall, knocking him off his feet and sprawling him onto the floor. Still dazed, the suspect is hauled to his feet before falling down again. Seconds later, a second police officer douses the suspect with what appears to be pepper spray. At various points, some of the officers smile, and one looks directly at the surveillance camera.
That incident occurs less than 30 seconds into the video. Another officer later approaches and appears to look at the suspect, then walks away. The suspect is taken out of camera view, and near the end of the video is escorted down the corridor and out the door.
A description of the video, uploaded by a man whose screen name is Mike Berg, reads: “Charged with a dwi not even drunk and tried explaining that I wasn’t drunk and they could be out catching actual criminals. Then after being in the cell for a while waiting for a bail bonds man I was taken out and brought in the booking room to call for a ride. After calling a ride I was told I could take my phone that I called from and my wallet. as soon as I grabbed my wallet from the table the officer with the glasses came at me saying he never told me I could take my stuff and choked me against the wall then tried to grab the wallet from my pocket. Once he got the wallet and my phone this is what happened.”
A search of Berg’s YouTube account shows multiple videos of him rapping or lip-syncing to music and one occasion mentions New Hampshire’s area code, 603, in a song. Berg is seen wearing baseball caps backwards, sunglasses and jewelry. Berg is not believed to be his real last name. Police have not released his identity.
Manzi said part of the investigation will focus on how the video, which he confirmed was shot within the police station, got into the hands of the suspect.
“We don’t know how it got out there,” Manzi said, adding he didn’t know why the video surfaced this week, four years after the fact.
According to information found on the video post, the suspect said his lawyer, whom he hired after the incident, took the tape and kept it for two years until the suspect tracked him down. “But now I think it’s to late to do anything with it even though I have a permanent lump on the back of my head chipped teeth and brain injuries but talking to a lawyer soon.”
At the time of the incident, Seabrook Police Department was led by now-retired Chief Patrick Manthorn. Bitomske was sworn in as the department’s newest chief in November 2012. Manzi was not town manager at the time of the video.
Yesterday morning, Bitomske visited the town office building where he and Manzi discussed the matter further. Upon leaving the building, Bitomske declined to comment but said he may have a statement later this afternoon or tomorrow.
Manzi said he first watched the video Sunday after being alerted that there was a video involving Seabrook police that he should see. Since uploaded, the video had been watched more than 11,520 times as of 5:15 p.m. yesterday.