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A former transit police officer has been indicted on multiple charges for allegedly abusing a 63-year-old Black man and filing a misleading report about the incident, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins' office announced Monday.
Officer Nicholas Morrissey, 41, was charged with assault and battery, assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon (the pavement), violating the victim’s civil rights and filing a false report.
The incident occurred April 28, 2020, when transit police were called to Forest Hills Station in Jamaica Plain for a report of an intoxicated homeless man who refused to leave a bus, according to the DA's office. Officer Nicholas Morrissey, who is white, allegedly dragged the man from the bus and forcibly held him face-down with a knee on his back for 20 seconds, the office said. Morrissey also allegedly pushed the man's head into the pavement and then later dragged him out of the bus lane.
The man suffered abrasions to his face that required medical attention, according to the DA's office. A second officer who arrived at the scene after the encounter noted the victim was bleeding from his forehead.
Morrissey filed a report claiming the victim lost his balance while attempting to spit at him. Morrissey wrote in his report that he grabbed the man by the shoulders to try to redirect him, but the man fell through the bus door and hit his forehead on the pavement.
But the account in Morrissey's report did not match up with security video of the incident or witness statements, the DA's office said.
A use-of-force report should have been filed per department policy. But when a transit police superintendent — who listened to the radio transmission of the call as the incident occurred — became concerned about the need for medical assistance and later checked for a use-of-force report, none was found.
"In many cases, some individuals who regularly encounter police do so as the result of mental illness, substance use disorder, food and housing insecurity or homelessness – all factors that make them more vulnerable and in greater need of assistance. Every time an individual comes in contact with a member of law enforcement is a potential opportunity to provide assistance or access to services," Rollins said in a statement. "Instead, Officer Morrissey is accused of physically assaulting the victim and using his position of trust and authority to actively cover up his criminal actions."
Morrissey resigned from his position "before any disciplinary action could take place," a statement from the DA's office said. He will be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on March 5.
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