May 21, 2015 7:03 PM

Former Seabrook officer on trial for assault on suspect takes stand

BRENTWOOD - A former Seabrook police officer charged with the 2009 assault of a 19-year-old man by allegedly slamming his head into a concrete wall testified in his own trial on Thursday.

Mark Richardson, 40, testified that Michael Bergeron was not being compliant while in custody at the Seabrook police station so he deployed an “arm bar” technique.

Use of force experts testified that an arm bar technique is used to quickly regain control of an incompliant subject.

Bergeron, who had been taken into custody for alleged drunken driving and drug possession, struck the wall on the left side of his face after Richardson used the technique. Bergeron quickly fell back onto the floor, before Richardson helped him get back up.

But as Bergeron took several more steps, he collapsed again. Another officer then deployed pepper spray on Bergeron.

The entire incident was recorded on the Seabrook Police Department’s surveillance system. A copy of the recording, obtained by Bergeron, was posted to YouTube and went viral last year.

Richardson, who testified that he had not seen the video until it was posted online, did not file a report after the alleged incident. He told the court that it was not protocol in Seabrook at the time to file reports for ‘hands on’ encounters with subjects.

According to Richardson, Bergeron had already been causing trouble inside the police station by taking off his clothing and using it to clog the toilets. Richardson said he had to shut off the water to Bergeron’s cell.

The former officer told the court that after Bergeron was fingerprinted and completed the booking process, they told him to return to his cell and Bergeron became incompliant. As Richardson attempted to use an escort technique holding Bergeron’s wrist, the teenager allegedly raised his hand at the officer. In response, Richardson said he used the arm bar technique.

“He’s turned at me, I’ve seen his hand come up – so no, I don’t actually – I wouldn’t say fear, but I don’t know that he’s not going to use some type of force against me or one of the other officers at that time,” Richardson said.

Lowell, Massachusetts Police Officer Robert Dyer, who trains officers from around the region in uses of force, testified on the defense’s behalf that Richardson did indeed use the arm bar technique.

But attorneys for the state maintained that the officer used aggressive force when it wasn’t necessary.

“Mr. Bergeron is quite simply doing nothing in that hallway but walking straightforward, with his right hand on his pants, holding them up when force is deployed,” said Geoff Ward with the NH Atty. General’s Office.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Friday morning. The judge said a verdict may be likely lunch time.

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