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85-year-old woman accuses Tewksbury police of civil rights violations

Alice O’Connell says she was unlawfully arrested and imprisoned in 2013.

An 85-year-old woman accused the town of Tewksbury and its police department of using unreasonable force and unlawfully arresting and imprisoning her, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in December.

Alice E. O’Connell claimed in the lawsuit that police arrested her without probable cause, forced her to undergo psychiatric evaluation without her consent, failed to advise her of her Miranda rights, did not allow her to make a phone call, and made false statements in a police report.

The lawsuit stems from a May 2013 incident in which O’Connell called police to report that her husband of 58 years was “out of control’’ and asked that he be removed from the house. The husband, 87-year-old Thomas O’Connell, suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the lawsuit.

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Upon arrival, police noticed that O’Connell’s husband was bleeding from a scratch on his wrist, according to a police report cited in the lawsuit. She told police that she was afraid her husband might punch her in the mouth and had grabbed his arms to restrain him, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that Sergeant Walter Jop on scene “continually interrupted’’ O’Connell’s attempts to explain and that he made inaccurate and false statements about what had occurred. When she protested, Jop told her she was being “awfully pushy,’’ the lawsuit states. O’Connell responded that the officer was the one being pushy, according to the lawsuit.

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That’s when Jop grabbed her by the arm, “forcibly turning her around by one arm while placing handcuffs on her without telling her why he was doing so,’’ the lawsuit states.

She was not told why she had been arrested, and continually stated that the handcuffs were too tight, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also states that a police report falsely states she was read her Miranda Rights and that she was allowed to make a phone call during booking. She was also subject to an “unwarranted’’ psychiatric evaluation, according to the lawsuit.

At the time, O’Connell was charged with assault and battery on someone over 60 and of making threats, according to a Lowell Sun article at the time. The charges were later dismissed due to a lack of probable cause.

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A Tewksbury town official did not respond to a request for comment.

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