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Officers cleared in violent arrest

By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / September 17, 2011

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The Boston police officers captured on video repeatedly striking a teenage suspect at Roxbury Community College last October did not use excessive force and will face no criminal charges, authorities announced yesterday.

“Like many others who saw them, I was initially disturbed by the video clips of the Oct. 22 arrest,’’ Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said in prepared remarks at a press conference yesterday at his office in downtown Boston.

“But here, as elsewhere, context is everything,’’ Conley said, adding that the male suspect, who was 16 at the time and wanted on warrants for assault charges and escaping from state custody, exhibited “assaultive behavior’’ when police tried to apprehend him.

Cellphone footage of the arrest inside the lobby of the college shot by civilians captured several officers restraining and striking the 6-foot-1-inch, 165-pound youth on the floor of a campus building.

Authorities said yesterday that the suspect, who has not been named because he was a juvenile at the time, suffered a small cut to his forehead, a bump above his eye, and an abrasion beneath his hair.

Three of the responding officers also suffered cuts and abrasions, according to Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis. He said at the press conference that while officers always try to peacefully resolve altercations with suspects, “sometimes enforcement action is unavoidable.’’

Conley said yesterday that there was no evidence that anyone had uttered racial slurs at the black suspect and that race was not a serious factor in the investigation.

The Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, a prominent black minister in Boston, said yesterday that he spoke with student witnesses to the altercation who told him the suspect provoked the officers, which was not captured on video.

“Taking down powerful young men is not, as a rule, always a pretty picture,’’ Rivers said by phone. “We’re not quite talking about Rodney King here.’’

According to a letter sent to Davis from Conley yesterday, the suspect violently resisted officers’ attempts to handcuff him and secure his backpack, which was later found to contain nine bags of marijuana.

He was brought to the ground and continued to fight attempts to handcuff him, kicking one officer and ignoring police commands, Conley wrote. The suspect was not struck after he was handcuffed, the letter stated.

But during the struggle, Officer Michael McManus hit the youth about 17 times, including six “hammer type’’ strikes with the fleshy portion of his fist instead of his knuckles, according to Conley.

He wrote that McManus said he struck the suspect’s “major muscle groups’’ as a distraction technique that was taught to him at the Boston Police Academy. Conley said none of McManus’s strikes was near the youth’s head, neck, groin, and vital organs.

McManus was among a group of officers who were investigated and later cleared of wrongdoing in the 2008 death of David Woodman, a 22-year-old Brookline man who died of a heart-related condition after being restrained by Boston officers.

McManus had been placed on desk duty pending the outcome of the investigation into the Roxbury incident, and he has returned to patrolling the street, Davis said.

Gregory J. Connor, an associate professor at the University of Illinois and an expert on police use of force who consulted with Conley’s office during the investigation, found that while the officers acted in good faith to try to subdue the suspect, their tactics were ineffective and uncoordinated.

He issued several recommendations for Boston police going forward, including an internal review for “new tools and tactics’’ for the use of force.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.