The family of a Worcester man filed a federal lawsuit today claiming that he was beaten to death in an encounter with police at a North Andover sobriety checkpoint in November.
The wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit filed today in US District Court in Boston by the family of Kenneth R. Howe, 45, seeks unspecified damages and injunctive relief that, they said, would prevent such an incident from happening again.
"From the beginning, we have stated that he was beaten to death by police. That was confirmed on Jan. 21 by the medical examiner’s office," attorney Frances A. King said this afternoon at a news conference in front of the federal courthouse in Boston. "The loss of a husband and a father is a pain that cannot be described. These children and their mother will never see their father or their husband again."
The suit alleges that Howe's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights against unreasonable force, his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment, and that his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process were violated by police at the North Andover checkpoint.
The suit names 36 State Police, North Andover Police, and Essex County Sheriff's Department personnel, including the previous head of the State Police, Colonel Mark Delaney, North Andover Police Chief Richard Stanley, and Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins. It also names the town of North Andover as a defendant.
King said the list of defendants was so long because authorities have not identified which officers at the checkpoint had contact with Howe. The suit, she said, names all the officers involved in the checkpoint, while alleging that higher-ups failed to prevent or stop the alleged beating.
King also called upon the US attorney's office in Boston to take over the investigation into the Thanksgiving Day death of Howe, whom police allege fought with and resisted officers.
King denied that Howe struggled with officers, and she criticized Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett for initially pursuing cardiovascular disease and natural causes as the possible reasons for Howe’s death before the state medical examiner ruled last week that the death was a homicide.
Investigators for the Essex County district attorney's office who are looking into the case are state troopers assigned to the office. The troopers are assigned to all district attorneys and the attorney general's office.
"It is nothing short of absurd to think that the Massachusetts State Police Department can investigate the Massachusetts State Police Department," King said, calling for federal prosecutors to work with the FBI to assume control of the investigation.
"I just want justice done for me and my kids and for Kenny," said Margaret Howe, speaking to reporters in front of the courthouse. "My life hasn't been the same since he has been gone. I can't even explain to you how it has been. He was there every day for us and now he's gone."
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