Massachusetts officer charged with civil rights violations for 2016 arrest during which he was allegedly spitting on and kicking teen
The charges stem from arrests made in February 2016 after a group of juveniles allegedly stole an unmarked police vehicle after a Springfield detective left it idling in a parking lot.
Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A Massachusetts police officer accused of spitting on and kicking a Latino teen during an arrest in 2016, yelling “welcome to the white man’s world”, has been arrested and charged with three counts of federal civil rights violations.
According to the indictment, Springfield officer Gregg Bigda also threatened to “stick a fucking kilo of coke in [the juvenile’s] pocket and put [the juvenile] away for fucking 15 years”, and to “fucking kill [the juvenile] in the parking lot”.
Those comments, which came during an interrogation after the arrest, were captured on video and publicly released by the Republican newspaper in 2016. In the footage Bigda can be heard yelling: “I’m not hampered by the fucking truth ‘cause I don’t give a fuck! People like you belong in jail. I’ll charge you with whatever!”
In the indictment, prosecutors described the officer’s behavior as “so abusive that it shocks the conscience”.
Harold Shaw, the special agent in charge of the FBI investigation into the incident, added: “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.”
In addition to three counts of violating the civil rights of those arrested, Bigda was charged with one count of obstructing justice for allegedly writing a false report.
The charges stem from arrests made in February 2016 after a group of juveniles, including the two referenced in the indictment, allegedly stole an unmarked police vehicle after Springfield detective Steven Vignault left it idling in a pizzeria parking lot.
After a brief chase that led into a neighboring town, the vehicle was stopped with “spike strips” and officers began to make arrests. Bigda then yelled the racist taunt about “the white man’s world” and kicked one of the suspects in the head, according to another officer’s testimony.
During the subsequent interrogation, Bigda made the other comments that were captured on tape, like threatening to “crush [the juvenile’s] skull and fucking get away with it”. It was also revealed that the teens were not read their Miranda rights and were questioned without their parents present.
Detective Vignault, who has since resigned, was also charged with a single count of using “unreasonable force” against a different juvenile in the incident.
Springfield police commissioner John Barbieri said in a statement Wednesday that Bigda would be suspended without pay due to the indictment and that the department would have “no further comment during the criminal proceedings”. Bigda had previously served a 60-day suspension for the incident, which occurred nearly three years ago.
Bigda faces a maximum of 32 years in prison on the charges, and Vignault faces a maximum of 10.