PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Three more of Sgt. Joseph Hanley’s colleagues at the Providence Police Department were called to testify against him in his criminal trial Thursday, including a subordinate whose body-worn camera captured Hanley kicking Rishod Gore after arresting him last year.
The officers testified as those in the courtroom awaited word on whether sheriffs had located Gore, the alleged victim in the case who has thus far not turned up to testify as expected.
Among the officers questioned was Abraham Lugo, who was less than a year out of the police academy at the time of the April 19 incident last year. Lugo was helping Hanley and Officer Vincent Lopez arrest Gore after a brief struggle to pull him out of the passenger seat of a car.
After getting him out of the car and onto the ground, Lugo’s body camera video shows him handcuffing Gore, who was repeatedly asking what he did to get arrested.
Lugo testified that while Gore briefly tensed his body — a form of “active resistance” in police terms — he stopped doing so after a few seconds, and Lugo was able to hold him to the ground.
“It was at that point that I felt I had complete control of him and I did not feel him tensing,” Lugo said.
That’s when the video shows Hanley kicking Gore in the side.
“Did you need that kick, at that point?” asked Michael McCabe, a special assistant attorney general.
“Based on what I was feeling, no,” Lugo said.
The testimony was significant because Hanley’s defense attorney, Michael Colucci, argued on the first day of the trial that Hanley only made “compliance strikes” to Gore in response to him resisting arrest.
Providence Police policy allows officers to use force only until a suspect stops resisting, and they must use the minimum amount of force required to get the situation under control. Force cannot be used as punishment.
“If you want to act like a savage, that’s what you get,” Hanley is heard saying in the video.
“What did I do?” Gore asked while laying on the ground.
“You’re a [expletive],” Hanley said, using a vulgar term typically directed at women.
Prosecutors say he also kicked Gore in the head at one point, in addition to punching him and standing on his calves, and “bouncing” his knee into Gore’s neck.
Gore had earlier resisted officers’ attempts to pull him out of the BMW, where his girlfriend was also holding on to him as police dragged him out of the car. The girlfriend was also arrested, but charges against both of them were later dropped.
Thursday’s testimony also shed more light on why police were arresting Gore in the first place, something that police have never thoroughly explained in the 10 months since the incident.
Officers had already been on Knight Street for a domestic disturbance call, where they arrested a man — Gore’s friend — who resisted arrest and had to be pepper sprayed. A previous BOLO alert for the man had indicated he might be in a black BMW.
Detective Mark Hubbard, who responded to the scene, said after the man was taken into custody Gore held up a cell phone and pointed it at the officers, saying, “watch what happens to you.”
Hubbard took it to be a threat.
So when Gore walked away down Tell Street and got into the BMW, officers followed. Lugo said it was Hanley’s decision to arrest him.
Gore was expected to be in court to testify to his version of events on Wednesday, but did not show up. Prosecutors said they were sure he knew he was required to be there, and his girlfriend — who did show up to testify, though she ultimately wasn’t called — said she had spoken to him and he wasn’t coming.
The judge issued a civil warrant authorizing sheriffs to go look for him and bring him to court, but they didn’t manage to locate him by the time court ended Thursday. The prosecution is expected to rest on Friday, which gives them one last chance to find Gore and bring him in.
It’s unclear what effect the absence of Gore’s testimony will have on Judge Brian Goldman’s ultimate verdict in the bench trial. In addition to not having the alleged victim’s testimony, his failure to appear could mean other statements he’s made can’t be considered, because of the confrontation clause of the U.S. Constitution.
For example, Goldman already on Thursday stopped prosecutors from playing a video of Gore being transported to the police department after his arrest, because he wasn’t there to be cross-examined on statements made in the video.
Colucci said he may be drafting some motions before the next court session — it’s common for the defense to ask for a motion to dismiss after the prosecution rests — and declined to comment Thursday on whether he’ll call Hanley to the stand.
The only other witness on the defense list is a police use-of-force expert named Charles DiChiara.
The prosecution says it will also have an expert, retired Central Falls Police Chief Daniel Barzykowski, prepared to rebut DiChiara’s testimony.
Earlier in the trial, a civilian named Michaela Perry Gagne testified about watching the alleged assault from her bedroom window four floors above the action. Her cell phone video of the incident, which she sent to police, was what first sparked the investigation into Hanley’s actions.