Two Springfield Police Officers, one current and one former officer, were arrested today and charged in federal court in Springfield, Massachusetts, on allegations that they used unreasonable force against two Latino juveniles during an arrest. One of the officers is also charged with threatening the juveniles during an interrogation and falsifying subsequent reports regarding the incident. Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; and Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, Boston Field Division, made the announcement.
Gregg A. Bigda, 48, of Wilbraham, was charged in an indictment unsealed today with three counts of violating the civil rights of arrestees and one count of obstructing justice by writing a false report. Steven M. Vigneault, 48, of East Longmeadow, was charged in the same indictment with one count of violating the civil rights of an arrestee.
The indictment charges that, on Feb. 27, 2016, Bigda used unreasonable force against a juvenile, and that afterward, Bigda spat on him and said, “Welcome to the white man’s world.” The indictment further charges that Vigneault used unreasonable force against a different juvenile. According to the indictment, both uses of force involved the use of dangerous weapon and resulted in bodily injury.
“Even in the face of adversity, law enforcement officers are expected to conduct themselves professionally, respectfully, and with integrity,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “They are ambassadors for the rule of law, and when they themselves break those laws, they violate not just the rights of their victims, but compromise the public’s trust in law enforcement. My Office is committed to holding our public servants accountable under the law and prosecuting those who abuse their positions of power.”
“Most law enforcement officers are dedicated, honest, and fully committed to building trust within their communities, but those who break the law stain the reputation of the law enforcement profession,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, Boston Field Division. “Badges and guns do not come with the authority to ignore the Constitution or the rights of others, and those who violate it will be held accountable.”
The indictment further alleges that after the arrests, Bigda interrogated the juveniles without their parents present and without reading them their Miranda rights, and that, during the course of the interrogations, Bigda threatened the juveniles in a number of different ways. For example, Bigda made the following threats against the first juvenile: to “crush [the juvenile’s] skull and [expletive] get away with it,” “bring the dog back [and] let him [expletive] go after” the juvenile; “[expletive] kill [the juvenile] in the parking lot”; “charge [the juvenile] with killing Kennedy and [expletive] make it stick,” “stick a [expletive] kilo of coke in [the juvenile’s] pocket and put [the juvenile] away for [expletive] 15 years,” and “kick [the juvenile] right in the [expletive] face as soon as [they] cross the Springfield line.” Bigda made the following threats against the second juvenile: to “beat the [expletive] out of [the juvenile],” “tune [the juvenile] the [expletive] up,” and “bloody [the juvenile’s] body.”
Bigda subsequently attempted to obstruct the investigation into the assaults on the juveniles by falsifying his reports to the Springfield Police Department Internal Investigations Unit, allegedly writing that he did not kick anyone or see any officer kick anyone during the course of the arrests of the juveniles. Bigda filed a second report in which he denied spitting on anyone or yelling “welcome to the white man’s world” during the arrest of the juveniles.
The charges of depriving arrestees of their civil rights carry a maximum possible sentence of 10 years for counts alleging that a dangerous weapon was used or that bodily injury resulted, and a maximum sentence of one year for the charges that allege no weapon or injury. The charges of falsifying a police report provide for a maximum possible sentence of 20 years. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Deepika Bains Shukla and Katharine Wagner of Lelling’s Springfield Branch Office and Trial Attorney Christopher J. Perras of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.
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