NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Crime

Bridgeport Officer Acquitted Of Federal Civil Rights Violation In Videotaped Beating

Acquittal_photo.JPG
Youtube

A federal jury in Bridgeport has acquitted Bridgeport Police Sergeant Clive Higgins in the 2011 beating of Orlando Lopez-Soto in Beardsley Park.

The event was captured in an amateur video recorded by a bystander and uploaded to YouTube two years after it happened. The video shows Lopez-Soto fall to the ground face-down in a grassy area, after he was hit with a stun gun. Two policemen run up to him; one starts kicking and stomping him. Then another police car pulls up, and a third officer gets out. That officer is Clive Higgins.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AO_7YGma-I

What happened then was the central question of the trial. NAACP President Scot X. Esdaile led protests after the video became public. He saw the video one way.

"He pulls up, gets out of the car, pushes them to the side...You'd think that he would try to help the young man on the ground, but then he goes in there and beats up the guy worse than the first two guys were beating him up," Esdaile said. "So I don't know what kind of video they were watching."

Higgins' representative, U.S. Public Defender Paul Thomas, said the jury watched a video that wasn’t clear enough about what Higgins was doing—and why—to lead to a conviction. Thomas said the video left the jury with too many unanswered questions.

"Such as whether or not Mr. Higgins actually landed a kick, whether or not he caused any injury, and most significantly, whether what he did was justified by the circumstances," Thomas said.

Thomas added police had reason to believe Lopez-Soto was dangerous: he'd led them to the park in a car chase. Lopez-Soto is currently serving five years in prison after pleading guilty to gun and drug charges. Last year, the city of Bridgeport settled a civil suit to pay him nearly $200,000. After the beating, he was hospitalized with cuts and bruises.

The other two officers involved in the incident each accepted a plea deal to serve one year in prison. In a statement, Bridgeport police chief Joseph Gaudett said Higgins will remain on administrative leave and that internal disciplinary charges have been filed against him.