EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — The East Greenwich Police Department replaced Cole Middle School’s suspended student resource officer with an officer convicted of assaulting a prisoner at the police station in 2013.
Lt. Paul Nahrgang took over the SRO position at the start of the school year, about a month after Humberto Montalban was put on administrative leave following his arrest for domestic cyberstalking and cyberharassment.
Nahrgang was found guilty of misdemeanor simple assault in a Sept. 2013 bench trial for an incident involving Michael Ryan, who was 44-years old at the time and had been arrested for malicious mischief.
According to state police investigators, the assault was caught on police department video that showed Nahrgang “lunge” at Ryan in a jail cell and grab him around the kneck.
On the day of the 2013 arraignment, Eyewitness News talked with Ryan’s wife who said her husband claimed Nahrgang “tried to strangle” him “more than once.”
Kent County District Court Judge Frank Cenerini ordered the guilty verdict filed for one year, allowing Nahrgang to expunge the conviction.
Judge Cenerini, who required the officer to undergo anger management counseling, found Nahrgang not guilty of disorderly conduct during the trial.
East Greenwich Police Chief Stephen Brown said he does not see a problem with Nahrgang replacing Montalban.
“[Nahrgang] had one incident approximately six years ago. He had nothing before and nothing after,” Brown said. “He has been a very good officer.”
Brown said the SRO position is filled “per the [police] contract” with the city and Nahrgang “is the most senior officer who wanted the assignment.”
Neither Nahrgang nor the East Greenwich police union president has responded for requests for comment.
East Greenwich Town Manager Andrew Nota said he is “confident in Chief Brown’s leadership and that Officer Nahrgang will perform in an exemplary fashion in this temporary post.”
“The SRO position will be reevaluated should the permanent position need to be filled and in the course of that review a permanent SRO would be selected,” Nota added.
Nota also said “no other officer in the department” has the “specialized training” needed for the SRO assignment.
Montalban was arrested by state police in July on misdemeanor domestic cyberstalking and cyberharassment charges for allegedly sending his ex-girlfriend a series of text messages.
According to the arrest warrant, Montalban threatened to “ruin her professional reputation by sharing explicit videos or images with her colleagues or parents.”
Montalban, of West Warwick, was known as “Officer Bert” at Cole and had worked for the Warwick Police Department for 25 years before he was hired in East Greenwich about 10 years ago.
Investigators said his ex-girlfriend went to local and state police in June, claiming Montalban started harassing her after she broke up with him.
One string of messages included in the warrant indicated the woman pleaded with Montalban not to share the pictures and information.
“Bert, please,” one message said. “Please don’t do this.”
She later texted, “I’m sorry.”
“You will be!” Montalban replied.
The accuser in the Montalban case has an active restraining order against him.
Montalban has not responded to requests for comment. He was the second East Greenwich police officer arrested within a two-month period and the third placed on administrative leave within about a year.
In June, Mark Edmonds, 25, resigned after he was charged by Pawtucket police with several felonies for allegedly pointing a gun at and choking his wife. He pleaded not guilty to 10 charges last month.
In April 2018, Scott Cole, 30, was arrested for a DUI in West Warwick and has since served an alternative sentence through the state veterans court.
Last August, Cole was placed on administrative leave after a woman claimed the officer had texted her lewd pictures and propositioned her for sex only hours after Cole arrested her for DUI.
Chief Brown said the town tried to terminate Cole but the process ended this year and he is now back on duty.
Brown said the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights restricted him from offering any details about the Cole case.
Cole has not responded to requests for comment.