NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — A New Bedford police sergeant was ordered by a judge to receive treatment for his alleged mental illness after he was accused of stealing and damaging his ex-wife’s minivan.
Sgt. Joshua Fernandes is accused of tracking his ex-wife using a dating app and slashing her friend’s tires while she was on a date at a Seekonk restaurant. He then stole her minivan while she was inside and allegedly smashed the windows, broke the radio and slashed the tires after dropping it off at a Swansea rest stop.
Fernandes faces 12 charges relating to several incidents including:
- 2 counts of assault and battery on a family member
- Photographing an unsuspecting nude person
- Stalking in violation of a restraining order
- 2 counts of malicious damage to a motor vehicle
- Vandalizing property
- Unauthorized access to a computer system
- Larceny of a motor vehicle
- Misleading a police officer in an investigation
- Criminal harassment
- 1 felony count of breaking and entering in the nighttime
In one incident, prosecutors say Fernandes and his then-wife had gone on a date in Boston in an effort to save their marriage. On the way home, he allegedly told his wife that he would leave her on the side of the highway unless she agreed to have sex with him.
Fernandes then allegedly used his privileges as a resource officer at New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School. Prosecutors say he used his key fob to enter the parking lot and have sex with his then-wife, which was caught on surveillance cameras.
“He’s used his position. His position of trust and he’s betrayed that trust,” Prosecutor Shawn Guilderson said. “This includes instances where he’s assaulted his wife. This includes instances where he’s taken his cell phones from her so she couldn’t communicate with anyone.”
His attorney, Amy Valente, argued they were both consenting adults and his wife should have known there were security cameras since the couple’s three children attended the school.
In trying to paint the picture that Fernandes was manipulative and treated women like possessions, prosecutors said that Fernandes once showed his then-wife a picture of another woman online and said he had a baby with her. He also allegedly told his then-wife that he gave her an STD.
Valente argued that her client has been struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suffers from depression stemming from a shots-fired incident that occurred when he was a patrolman.
“He’s a good person battling a bad disorder,” Valente explained.
In 2006, Fernandes was shot by a suspect while responding to the Foxy Lady in New Bedford. The gunman then fatally shot two employees before taking his own life.
Valente said he was hit in the face with the bullet and required several surgeries and took several days off to physically recover.
During his recovery, his mental wellbeing reportedly deteriorated. Valente said Fernandes has tried in the past to seek help for his PTSD and has threatened to kill himself.
Fernandes had to file a discrimination complaint against the chief of the department because he was told he would need to use some of his comp days to receive mental health treatment, according to Valente.
“When someone’s clearly having a mental breakdown, you don’t kick them when they’re down, you get them the help they need,” she said.
A judge deemed Fernandes not dangerous on Wednesday but ordered him to turn in his firearms, stay away from the victims, and check into a hospital for treatment. Until a bed opens up at a hospital that treats police officers for PTSD, the judge ordered Fernandes to be held without bail.
Following his treatment, the judge also said Fernandes will be placed on home confinement with a GPS monitor until further notice. Valente said they are happy with the ruling as he has asked for treatment for his mental illness for years.
His next court date is scheduled for June 7.