Bennington man sues police, town, alleging excessive force
BENNINGTON -- A man who police arrested after a car and foot chase is suing the town, police department, and an officer for at least $500,000 over an incident in which he was allegedly hit in the face with an object and denied medical attention while he bled profusely.
The complaint was filed March 10 in Vermont Superior Court Civil Division Bennington Unit on behalf of Tyler Galipeau, 32, who court records indicate resides on East Main Street. The complaint alleges that on Aug. 24, 2012, Galipeau was driving through Bennington with a friend when police attempted to stop him because they suspected he was driving while intoxicated. Galipeau eventually stopped and ran when he saw Officer Joshua Stemp approach him.
The complaint alleged that before this incident Galipeau and Stemp met when Stemp unsuccessfully tried to arrest him. "I'm going to get you Galipeau" is what Stemp allegedly said after that encounter and Galipeau fled the scene of the traffic stop on foot, "knowing of Stemp's enmity towards him."
According to the complaint, Stemp fell and scraped his knee during the chase, making him, "angry and agitated."
Stemp and other officers brought Galipeau to the ground and while Galipeau's arms were pinned beneath him, he shouted "I give up."
"Although in custody and held down by other officers, Stemp then used a heavy-blunt instrument (baton or flashlight) and struck Plaintiff across the face and head, injuring his eye, mouth, teeth, and head," reads the complaint.
Blood ran in Galipeau's eye, temporarily blinding him, he said. Galipeau said he asked repeatedly to go to the hospital but was taken to the Bennington Police Station instead. It alleges that another officer told Stemp that Galipeau needed medical attention but was ignored as was a family member Galipeau was allowed to call. He was brought to a hospital after a long delay.
Galipeau was blind in his left eye before this, but now suffers blurring in his right eye where he was struck. He also suffered an intracranial bleed, head injury, facial fracture, various lacerations, and a fractured tooth. The complaint alleged Galipeau will suffer health problems from this for the rest of his life.
The complaint alleges that Stemp has a history of violence on and off duty and toward arrestees. It alleges that the town and police department should have know about this and did nothing to address it.
The suit calls for at least a judgment of $500,000 on seven counts, use of excessive force, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision.
Galipeau is being represented by Manchester attorney Lloyd J. Weinstein and South Londonderry attorney Jeremy Dworkin.
Bennington Town Manager Stuart Hurd said he could not comment on a pending case against the town, but did say the town is being represented by Burlington attorney Nancy Sheehan, who did not return a call Friday seeking comment. A response from her has not yet been filed with the court.
Galipeau faced criminal charges for the Aug. 24 incident. He pleaded guilty on Jan. 11, 2013, to a felony count of negligent vehicle operation to elude a police officer, and misdemeanor counts of leaving the scene of a crash with property damage, and resisting arrest. He was given an 18-month to 36-month sentence, all suspended except for four days and placed on probation, which he admitted to violating that summer. Galipeau also agreed to pay $1,000 in restitution to The Pharmacy for damage he caused to the building in the car chase.
The affidavit of probable cause, authored by Stemp, paints a slightly different picture of the August 2012 event.
According to Stemp, at around 10:55 p.m. he clocked a vehicle on Benmont Avenue going 43 mph in a 30 mph zone. The vehicle stopped but sped off when he approached it and went down River Street with him giving chase. It skidded onto North Street after not stopping at several stop signs and appeared to have hit The Pharmacy.
The fleeing vehicle stopped in the parking lot of C.L. White and the driver fled from it. Stemp chased him down and caught him but they both fell. Stemp hurt his arm and knee and lost his grip on the man, then chased and caught him again.
Stemp said the male put his arms under his body and rolled into his back. According to Stemp, it has been his experience that when people do this they intend to harm him so he used a "close fist hand strike" on the male and was able to arrest him without further incident.
The affidavit indicates that Galipeau was not identified until he was brought to the Bennington Police Station. It makes no mention of his injuries but does indicate he was, at some point, see by members of the Bennington Rescue Squad and taken to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.
Stemp made no indication that he knew Galipeau from past experiences.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.
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