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Hartford Police Internal Affairs Finds Officers At Fault

Steven Goode and Jenna Carlesso

May 05, 2010

A Hartford Police Department internal affairs investigation has concluded that two city police officers and a supervisor violated department policies in connection with the beating of a prisoner in his cell last November.

Hartford police Sgt. Dixon Vega, an investigator in the department's internal affairs division, determined that officers Rhashim Campbell and Kent Lee deprived Michael Stewart of his basic rights and humane treatment and used excessive force in the execution of their duties when they beat him in a holding cell. Campbell was also found to have knowingly filed a false report. Vega also determined that their supervisor, Lt. Kevin Ahlquist, failed to properly supervise subordinates and failed to comply with department procedures.

The investigation began after Campbell bragged to fellow officers including one assigned to the internal affairs division that he had opened the door to Stewart's cell and "whupped his ass."

According to Vega's report, a video recording of the Nov. 1 early morning incident showed Stewart reaching between the cell bars and tapping the back of Campbell's head just before the officer opened the cell door. Campbell approached Stewart, who had his hands down, and the two became involved in a physical altercation initiated by Campbell. The video shows Campbell placing Stewart in a headlock and striking him on the right side of his face with his left hand while Lee observes. Campbell then knees Stewart in the body and strikes him again before Lee intervenes. Two minutes later the video shows the officers bringing Stewart to the floor, where Campbell kicks him. After Campbell shackles Stewart, the video shows Lee kicking him while he lies on the floor, according to Vega's report.

Campbell was charged Dec. 10 with third-degree assault and tampering with evidence. He appeared briefly at Superior Court on Wednesday and his case was continued until June 9. He did not enter a plea. His attorney, Salvatore Bonanno of Hartford, said Wednesday that Campbell will likely plead not guilty during his next court appearance.

Campbell, a five-year veteran of the force, has been suspended without pay since his arrest.

Police sought an arrest warrant for Lee as well, but prosecutors declined to sign it. Lee retired from the department in November.

Stewart was in custody after being arrested earlier in the evening of the alleged assault on charges of breach of peace and resisting arrest.

Stewart's case also is pending in Superior Court. He is scheduled to appear Friday.

David Jaffe, an attorney for Stewart, said he filed a notice of intent to sue the city. Stewart is also considering filing a civil rights action against Lee, Campbell and the city, he said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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