Leroy N. Soetoro
2019-08-11 20:33:34 UTC
St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor said he did not become aware of the
details of the March altercation until late May when he watched footage of
it that was requested by the Vermont chapter of the American Civil
Now, Vermont State Police detectives are investigating the encounter
between former St. Albans police Sgt. Jason Lawton and a woman he
arrested, Amy Connelly.
The video, some of it from a police body camera, shows the apparently
intoxicated Connelly, 35, being thrown against a wall in the broom-closet-
sized holding cell after she refuses to sit down. When she stands back up
and tries to kick Lawton, he responds by punching her in the face.
In court documents, Lawton originally said the blow to the face was to
gain control of the situation and that it ended her aggressive behavior.
But Taylor said that was not what the footage showed.
"The minute I saw the video I was disturbed by what I saw and directed
that there be an internal, administrative investigation conducted," Taylor
said Thursday in his St. Albans office.
The internal investigation began June 3. On June 12, Lawton was placed on
administrative leave. By July 1, after the department's internal
procedures were followed, Lawton was fired.
Lawton has appealed his firing. His attorney did not return a call seeking
On the evening of March 14, St. Albans police were called to a local bar
after receiving reports that Connelly was arguing with others and refused
After she was taken to the police station, video shows Lawton going into a
cell after Connelly apparently kicked the door. He swears at her, punches
her in the face and throws her to the ground. He then said he was going to
charge Connelly with assault.
Connelly is heard repeatedly saying, "Why would you do this?"
Connelly has pleaded not guilty to charges of disorderly conduct, unlawful
mischief and simple assault. Last week, her attorney asked the court to
dismiss the charges against her.
Before the altercation, when force was used it was self-reported.
Taylor said that policy has now been changed so that all physical
exchanges between officers and suspects, even minor ones, must be reviewed
by the patrol commanders who will report anything questionable to the
In addition to Lawton's firing, a second officer involved was allowed to
resign. A third is facing an internal review.
Jay Diaz, a staff attorney with the Vermont ACLU, said the group became
aware of the altercation after they were contacted by Connelly.
"With the body camera footage, we're actually able to see exactly what
happened, see an officer upper-cutting a young distraught woman with
handcuffs behind her back," Diaz said.
Diaz said the ACLU was pleased there has been accountability in this case.
Taylor said that since the video of the encounter began to circulate, the
department has received thousands of messages from people upset at what
they had seen. He said what happened was not indicative of his department.
No collusion - Special Counsel Robert Swan Mueller III, March 2019.
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Under Barack Obama's leadership, the United States of America became the
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