Two Massachusetts police officers were arrested and charged in federal court Wednesday with beating two Latino teenagers during an arrest in 2016. One of the teens later filed a lawsuit saying he suffered two black eyes while in custody.
Gregg A. Bigda, 48, allegedly spat and kicked one of the teens during an interrogation and told him, "Welcome to the white man's world," according to the indictment filed by the U.S. attorney's office.
The incident happened in February 2016 after Bigda and another officer, Steven M. Vigneault, also 48, arrested the two teens for stealing an undercover police car parked outside a pizza shop in Springfield, Massachusetts, according to Mass Live.
Authorities said Bigda interrogated the teens without parental consent and without reading them their Miranda rights. The indictment also states that he threatened to "crush" one of the teen's skull and "f***ing get away with it."
At another point during the interrogation, Bigda allegedly threatened to "f***ing kill" the teen in a parking lot and plant drugs on him. He was also accused of threatening to beat up the second teenager, the indictment reads.
The interrogation was captured on video and released in 2016, sparking a civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice.
Bigda was suspended from the Springfield Police Department for 60 days after the incident and was suspended again without pay on Wednesday after the indictment was announced, Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri said in a tweet. Vigneault resigned in 2016.
One of the teens involved filed a federal lawsuit in August against three Springfield officers, a state trooper and the city saying he was beaten while in handcuffs and on the ground and was repeatedly attacked by a police dog, Mass Live reports.
“Most law enforcement officers are dedicated, honest and fully committed to building trust within their communities, but those who break the law stain the reputation of the law enforcement profession,” Harold H. Shaw, the FBI agent in charge of the Boston Field Division, said in the indictment.
“Badges and guns do not come with the authority to ignore the Constitution or the rights of others, and those who violate it will be held accountable.”
The indictment also states that Bigda falsified documents to the Springfield Police Department during an internal investigation, writing that he did not kick or see anyone kick the teen, and denied spitting on him.
Bigda was charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of law — excessive force, two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law — abusive interrogation, and one count of obstructing justice by writing a false report. Vigneault was charged with one count of deprivation of rights under color of — excessive force.
If convicted, the officers could face up to 10 years in prison.