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R.I. officer indicted in suspect’s taped beating

Associated Press / February 23, 2010

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PROVIDENCE - A Providence police officer was indicted yesterday on charges that he beat a handcuffed man with a flashlight, prosecutors said.

A Providence County grand jury charged Detective Robert DeCarlo with assault with a dangerous weapon and misdemeanor simple assault in the Oct. 20 arrest of Luis Mendonca, 21, who was taken into custody following a chase.

Surveillance video in a Providence parking lot shows police surrounding an apparently handcuffed Mendonca as one officer kicks and strikes him. A lawyer for Mendonca has said his client was in a coma for two days and needed staples to close a gash on his head. Mendonca is in the custody of federal immigration authorities.

“Today’s indictment is a reminder that everybody is the same in the eyes of the law,’’ Attorney General Patrick Lynch said in a statement. Providence Mayor David Cicilline said the alleged actions were unacceptable and would not be tolerated.

DeCarlo, 45, is to be arraigned tomorrow in Providence Superior Court.

DeCarlo’s attorney, Peter DiBiase, said yesterday he had not seen the indictment. But he said the surveillance footage does not show the full story and pointed out that DeCarlo was responding to a dangerous situation at night involving a suspected robber who allegedly assaulted a police officer.

“What you’ve seen in that video does not tell you what was happening for the 20 minutes this suspect was running through the city of Providence and assaulting people and running away from police,’’ DiBiase said. He said the suspect refused police commands to stop fighting and resisting. “None of that is seen on the video,’’ DiBiase said.

Police say Mendonca was stopped by campus police for the Rhode Island School of Design but struck one of the officers and ran away. A group of Providence police officers tracked him down in a parking lot, where his arrest was recorded by a nearby surveillance camera.

DeCarlo is the third Rhode Island officer since December to be charged with beating a suspect.

A Woonsocket police officer, John H. Douglas, is accused of federal civil rights abuses in the alleged assault of a teenager, and Lincoln police officer Edward Krawetz is facing state charges that he kicked a handcuffed woman in the head outside the Twin River slot parlor. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Assault with a dangerous weapon carries a maximum 20-year sentence, while misdemeanor assault is punishable by up to a year in prison.