Wallingford, CT – A Wallingford police officer who subdued a suspect with a strike to the head was suspended for alleged excessive force (video below).
Gary Joseph King, 26, headbutted Wallingford Police Officer Anthony Baur while he was being arrested in connection with a domestic disturbance, then proceeded to fight with officers as they were placing him into the back of a patrol vehicle, Wallingford Police Chief William Wright told the Record-Journal.
The incident occurred on June 14, when officers were called to a report of a domestic disturbance on Ward Street sometime between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.
King was allegedly “on an intoxicant,” and pulled a knife on the officers when they arrived at the scene, Chief Wright told the Record-Journal.
The officers were able to disarm and handcuff King, but he continued to fight with them as they searched him for weapons and contraband.
King then headbutted Officer Baur, hitting him in the face, Chief Wright said.
The officers wrestled King towards the back of a patrol vehicle, as he screamed and resisted their efforts, in-car footage showed.
The suspect refused to place his feet inside the car, and repeatedly attempted to get out of the vehicle.
During the struggle that ensued, Officer Smith delivered a single strike to the side of King’s head, and he immediately lost consciousness.
“He’s out,” one of the officers said.
They then removed King from the car and repositioned him so they could close the cruiser door.
Medics evaluated King at the scene, and he was subsequently transported to the Midstate Medical Center, Chief Wright told the Record-Journal.
He has since pleaded guilty to felony assault on public safety personnel, and is due back in court on Dec. 17 in relation to misdemeanor counts of interfering with an officer/resisting arrest, use or possession of drug paraphernalia, second-degree breach of peace, possession of marijuana, and failure to comply with a fingerprint request, the Record-Journal reported.
Officer Smith was also injured during the altercation, and has been on medical leave since that time, Chief Wright said.
He did not disclose the nature of Officer Smith’s injuries.
After Chief Wright watched the in-car footage, he asked the New Haven Judicial District prosecutor’s office for their input.
An investigator from the prosecutor’s office watched the video and recommended that it be forwarded to the Connecticut State Police.
According to Chief Wright, the state police concluded that Officer Smith had no criminal intent to harm King, and sent the investigation back to the Wallingford Police Department.
Two Wallington officers certified in use-of-force training and protocol subsequently determined that Officer Smith used excessive force during the arrest.
“Through their instruction, it’s consistently held that you never, ever, ever, strike anyone in the head,” Chief Wright told the Record-Journal. “Even in this case where [King] is fighting with them.”
Officer Smith, a nine-year veteran of the force, was subsequently suspended for a period of two weeks.
He had no history of disciplinary infractions prior to King’s arrest, and was named Police Officer of the Year in 2017, the chief said.
“[Officer Smith’s] record to this point had been spotless,” Wallingford Police Union spokesperson Larry Dorman told the Record-Journal in a statement. “This is an isolated incident that should not be interpreted as a reflection of the dedicated police officers who protect and serve the people of Wallingford."
“Everything up until the strike, everything is appropriate…and then thereafter the strike, everything is appropriate,” Chief Wright said. “It was that moment in time that, in an attempt to finally gain control of the situation, that the strike to the head took place that we can’t condone.”
You can watch the cruiser footage of the officers’ encounter with King in the video below: