, Newburyport, MA

January 9, 2014

Officers named in Seabrook video scuffle

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — SEABROOK — Officers Mark Richardson, Adam Laurent and Keith Dietenhofer, veteran officers with almost 30 years combined experience with the Seabrook Police Department, were identified yesterday as the officers placed on administrative leave as the fallout continues from a YouTube video showing one of the officers slamming a young man’s head against a cement wall inside the Liberty Lane police station.

In other developments, Town Manager William Manzi III and Seabrook police Chief Lee Bitomske announced that the state attorney general’s office would be leading the investigation into the incident.

The announcement came after a whirlwind morning and afternoon that included a 75-minute closed-door emergency meeting of the Board of Selectmen at Town Hall and a meeting between Bitomske and Jane Young, senior assistant attorney general with the state, earlier in the day.

“It’s in the attorney general’s hands now. We will continue to support their efforts and await the outcome of their investigation,” Bitomske said.

The U.S. attorney and FBI reportedly are investigating whether the man’s civil rights were violated.

The roughly 4-minute video, titled “police brutality in seabrook,” was shot on Nov. 11, 2009, by a camera that monitors the Seabrook police station cellblock. It was posted to Youtube earlier this week, and quickly gained thousands of views.

The video shows Michael J. Bergeron Jr. being led down a hall by a police officer while two other officers walk alongside.

Bergeron is not handcuffed; however, one of his arms is being held by Richardson. Seconds later, Richardson yanks down on Bergeron’s arm, throwing Bergeron’s head against the wall, knocking him off his feet and sprawling him onto the floor. Richardson leans over and appears to say something to Bergeron. Still dazed, Bergeron is hauled to his feet before falling down again. Seconds later, Laurent douses him with what appears to be pepper spray. At various points, some of the officers smile, and Laurent looks directly at the surveillance camera. There is no audio with the video.

That incident occurs less than 30 seconds into the video. Another officer later approaches and appears to look at Bergeron, then walks away. Bergeron is taken out of camera view, and near the end of the video is escorted down the corridor and out the door.

A police report obtained by The Daily News detailing Bergeron’s arrest for drunken driving and drug possession on the day the video was taped paints a less than flattering picture of the then-19-year-old. In his narrative of the arrest, Laurent describes Bergeron as less than cooperative with officers. In addition to being verbally abusive, Bergeron was accused of fighting with officer David Hersey in the sally port section of the police station, which leads to the jail cell corridor.

According to Laurent’s report, after being placed in a holding cell, Bergeron tried to flood the toilet with his shirt. That prompted police to confiscate his pants to prevent him from stuffing them in the toilet. While in the booking room, Bergeron was “an emotional roller coaster” and became hostile toward police.

Escorting him out of the booking room, Laurent describes the scene in the hallway with Richardson performing an “arm bar” on Bergeron that sent him to the floor. Laurent then goes on to explain that due to Bergeron’s prior emotional instability and unwillingness to comply with police orders, he pepper sprayed him while he was on the ground.

A check of police logs kept by The Daily News shows Bergeron had frequent encounters with Seabrook police over the course of several years.

His first recorded encounter, in 2007 at age 17, led to charges of illegal possession of tobacco by a minor. In July 2009 he was arrested for drug possession and illegal possession of alcohol. In November 2009, he was arrested for DWI, drug possession and resisting arrest — charges filed the night of the videotaped incident.

In March 2011, he was arrested on a bench warrant. In July 2013, he was arrested for simple assault, and in October 2013 he was arrested for robbery and second-degree assault.

As recently as October, Bergeron was arrested and charged with second-degree assault and robbery after an incident on Route 107. Three months earlier, Bergeron was arrested on Kimberly Lane and charged with simple assault.

A search of Bergeron’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. Bergeron is seen wearing baseball caps backward, sunglasses and jewelry.

At the time of the videotaped 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.