Officer punching man three times in head prompts use-of-force investigation
The New Haven, Connecticut, Police Department is investigating a use-of-force incident caught on video in which an officer punched a man three times in the head and put his hand on the man’s throat.
New Haven police on Wednesday also released about three hours of footage taken from two officers’ body cameras during a call that lasted more than an hour and a half.
Officers arrived at an office building on Jan. 29 in response to a harassment complaint made by Shawn Marshall, 52, according to an arrest report. The report said officers responded to a similar complaint from Marshall the previous day.
Building management told responding officers they issued Marshall a letter on Jan. 27 banning him from the shared office space due to “disruptive behavior” and using offices that were not his, according to the report.
Marshall insisted he never received the letter and was being stopped from retrieving his belongings, the report said. Management agreed to let Marshall upstairs to get his things, and police spent about 45 minutes helping him move clothing and office supplies from two offices, according to the police report and body camera videos. He “instructed officers to carry them for him,” the report said.
“It should be noted during the entire process to retrieve such items, Mr. Marshall continually talked about topics completely unrelated … he went on to tell me how he believes he should run for mayor and Chief Reyes should be his running mate,” an officer detailed in the report.
“Mr. Marshall’s moods would change quickly and without warning,” the officer wrote. “He yelled at officers in the 19th floor lobby and then had a pleasant conversation with me.”
Once on the ground floor, Marshall wanted to make a harassment complaint, but never reported anything criminal, according to police. As he attempted to give a report, officers said Marshall socialized with people passing by, bragged about relationships with radio personalities and mentioned he exchanged emails with President Joe Biden.
He also made a call to a pastor “and had us all partake in a prayer for law enforcement,” the officer wrote in the complaint.
Marshall then became irate, demanding “someone go get that white man’s license,” apparently referring to someone upstairs, according to the report.
Officers warned him he could be arrested if he continued making a disturbance, the report said. He extended his hands and told officers to arrest him then, but they continued to “politely” ask him to exit the building.
He would not, and officers tried to handcuff him, according to the report. Authorities said Marshall resisted, jerked away, dropped to the ground and started kicking officers. One officer’s body camera was kicked off, according to the report and the video. Officers tried to restrain Marshall by putting their body weight on him, the report said.
The video shows an officer put his hands on Marshall’s throat and punch him three times swiftly on the side of his head. Another officer can be heard shouting, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Stop!”
Police then pepper-sprayed Marshall, who stopped struggling and was given water to clean out his eyes.
One officer on the scene reported that as Marshall was being treated by emergency medical services, the pastor he had called arrived on scene.
“He needs a hospital,” the pastor said to the officer. “He’s bipolar.”
But the officer wrote in the report: “It should be noted that although his mood swings are a sign of mental illness, he did not meet the requirements for an emergency evaluation.”
Marshall was then detained and brought to the police station, where he continued to be uncooperative, according to the police report. He was charged with assault on a police officer, interfering with a police officer, first-degree trespassing, disorderly conduct and failure to allow fingerprinting, police said in a statement.
In response to the use of force captured in the video, New Haven police Chief Otoniel Reyes said: “Our department will conduct a transparent and thorough internal investigation to determine the appropriateness of the officers’ actions. We take use of force seriously and the Internal Affairs review will determine if the use of force was within the guidelines of department policy.”
Police, however, did not respond to requests for comment on why officers did not believe Marshall’s behavior warranted an emergency response evaluation.
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said in a statement that the body camera footage “troubles” him.
“I understand that our officers have a difficult job and that they are under tremendous public scrutiny, but what I saw from the body cam footage leaves me with questions that will be answered through the review of the arrest,” Elicker said.
“My expectation is that the investigation will be both full and thorough and that the outcome of that investigation will be shared as transparently as possible,” Elicker said. “Until that investigation has been completed it is not prudent for me to pass any judgement but the optics of what transpired during the arrest warrants, in my opinion as mayor of our city, a serious investigation.”
Marshall, when reached by NBC Connecticut by phone, said he was being treated for headaches and shoulder pain.