Lawsuit Alleges Worcester Police K-9 Attacked Handcuffed Man

 by Tom MarinoMay 3, 2022

WORCESTER - A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court alleges that after Worcester Police officers secured a man in handcuffs, they kicked the man in the face, repeatedly punched him while on the ground, and used a police K-9 against him outside the District Bar on Water Street in March 2019.

The complaint and request for jury trial was filed in U.S. District Court on March 28.

The plaintiff in the case, Eric Rojas Rodriguez, of Spencer, was charged with assault and battery on police, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct after the incident. The lawsuit says Rodriguez suffered significant scarring, atrophy and deformity to his left leg and calf from the bite of the police K-9.

After surveillance and cell phone video of the incident surfaced, the assault and resisting arrest charges were dropped.

At around 2 AM on March 29, 2019, a District Bar patron fled across Water Street with a Worcester Police officer working a detail assignment and bouncers in pursuit, according to the court filing. Rodriguez did not know the fleeing man, but knew others at the bar who did.

The lawsuit says surveillance video captured Rodriguez's attempt to keep his friends away from where the man was being arrested and avoiding confrontation with both bouncers and officers. It also says bouncers were dressed in all black and at least one officer was also in all-black fatigues. The complaint says that led to Rodriguez fleeing at one point, believing he was fleeing an aggressive bouncer, when he was actually fleeing a police officer that had not identified themselves.

That led to Rodriguez being taken to the ground and handcuffed. The filing says after being handcuffed, officers struck Rodriguez and the K-9 bit into Rodriguez's left calf. One video recording shows the K-9 mauling, ripping and pulling Rojas’ left leg area as he laid motionless on the ground and restrained by two police officers.

The lawsuit alleges that four officers at the scene, Daniel Pennellatore, Thomas Bishop, Kevin McCarthy, and Paul Alward, filed false police reports related to the incident. The four officers, the City of Worcester, Police Chief Steven Sargent and City Manager Ed Augustus are named in the suit.

The individual counts included in the suit include Unreasonable Force, Assault and Battery, State Civil Conspiracy, and Malicious Prosecution.

The Worcester Police Department does not comment on pending litigation.

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