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Police had faced discipline before

Ex-US attorney will review fan's death

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Shelley Murphy and Maria Cramer
Globe Staff / July 3, 2008

A lawyer for David Woodman's family voiced outrage yesterday after learning that two of the nine officers who were with the 22-year-old Brookline man when he stopped breathing as he was being taken into custody during the Celtics championship celebration on June 18 had previously been disciplined, one for domestic violence and the other for a lack of judgment in dealing with a shooting suspect.

The prior complaints against the officers "could indicate they have anger management problems," said Howard Friedman, who represents the parents of Woodman, a former Emmanuel College student who died in the hospital 11 days after his encounter with the officers.

Friedman said there are unanswered questions about who started the encounter with Woodman.

"We're still in the dark," Friedman said. "But if one of these officers were involved or were the lead, that would be a sign of a more serious problem. That would shed new light on the entire incident."

Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said that neither of the two officers initiated Woodman's arrest, and that one had no physical contact with him, while the other helped push Woodman's arm behind his back while he was resisting arrest.

"There was a violent resistance to an arrest, and the incident was over very, very quickly," Davis said in a telephone interview.

He said yesterday that he asked Donald K. Stern, the former US attorney and now a lawyer in private practice, to review the circumstances around Woodman's death.

The Woodmans have called on the FBI and US Attorney's office to investigate their son's death.

Stern - who now works at Cooley, Godward, Kronish - was head of a panel that reviewed the death of Victoria Snelgrove, a 21-year-old Emerson College student who died in 2004 during a Red Sox celebration after a police officer fired a pepper pellet that struck her in the eye.

"I've worked very closely with Don Stern in the past, and I think he's the perfect person to help with this situation," Davis said, adding that Stern would "really make sure people are satisfied we are being completely transparent on this."

Stern said last night that it is unlikely he would convene a commission as he did in the Snelgrove case, where the facts were more technical and complex. That case involved a review of department weapons and crowd control tactics.

"This seems to me more manageable to get my arms around without forming a commission," Stern said, adding that he will probably serve as an independent investigator and call on specialists to aid in the review.

Yesterday Boston police released the names of the eight officers and one sergeant involved in arresting Woodman, along with their department histories, in response to a request from the Globe under the Freedom of Information Act.

One of the officers, Henderson Parker, 41, a 14-year veteran of the force, was suspended for 30 days in 2002 following "a physical confrontation of a domestic nature that resulted in injuries," according to a police record. The record did not provide any more details, but Davis said the confrontation did not happen while Parker was at work.

Another officer, Dowayne Lewis, 34, who has been with the department for seven years, was suspended two days in October 2005 for acting unprofessionally during an arrest. In that case, a man who shot a gun outside Lewis's house was arrested and placed in the back of a cruiser. Lewis, who was not on duty, approached the cruiser to identify the suspect and opened the door, in violation of department rules. The suspect tried to hit Lewis, who shoved back, Davis said.

Lewis, who has not been disciplined since the incident, was the officer who pushed Woodman's arm while he was being arrested, Davis said. "That's the sum of the contact," he said.

Officer Steven Borne, a 24-year-old former emergency medical technician who joined the department last year, was the officer who administered CPR when Woodman stopped breathing, Davis said. Borne is the subject of a pending internal affairs investigation spurred by a motorist's complaint that he was disrespectful while issuing her a ticket last month, Davis said.

None of the other officers involved in Woodman's arrest have ever been disciplined, police said. The officers are Sergeant James Blake, 42, who joined the department in 2001; Steven Collette, 26, who joined the department in 2006; Michael Condon, 30, who joined in 2006; Carina Acosta, 31, who joined in 2005; and Michael McManus, 30, and Brian Morse, 28, who both joined last year. McManus, Morse, and Borne are all on probation because they are new officers.

Parker, Blake, and Morse had no physical contact with Woodman, Davis said.

The night of Woodman's arrest, he and four friends had left a Kenmore Square bar after the Celtics victory and were walking home when they passed the officers at the corner of the Fenway and Brookline Avenue.

According to one of Woodman's friends, Woodman said, "Wow, it seems like there's a lot of crime on this corner," prompting officers to confront Woodman, who was holding a plastic cup of beer.

The friend said police slammed Woodman to the ground, then ordered them to leave the scene or face arrest. Davis said Woodman tried to flee and resisted arrest. He was charged with public drinking and resisting arrest.

Woodman's parents, Cathy and Jeffrey Woodman of Southwick, have accused police of failing to get prompt medical attention for their son. They said doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center told them their son suffered significant brain damage from a lack of oxygen. He died Sunday. Officials are awaiting final autopsy results to determine the cause of death. Woodman had a preexisting heart condition, but led an active life, his parents have said.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, who is conducting an investigation with police homicide detectives into Woodman's death, yesterday defended his decision to allow city police to investigate the incident.

"The decision on whether anyone is criminally responsible for anything that may have occurred here is exclusively mine to make," Conley said. "The fact that I'm using Boston police homicide investigators really reflects the faith I have in their integrity and professionalism."

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com.

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