Officers Martin Praisner, Jr., 47, and Steven Craig, 43, of the Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) Police Department are facing criminal civil rights violations for using pepper spray during the arrest of Benjamin Derosier, a violent adult visiting the campus. Additional charges include deliberate indifference to medical needs. The officers face one count of conspiracy to violate an individual’s civil rights and one count of violating an individual’s civil rights. Each of these charges carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
The incident began on September 1, 2008, when Officer Praisner ordered Derosier, who was intoxicated, to leave the campus. Some time later, Officer Craig responded to a female student’s complaint that Derosier was creating a disturbance at the student center. He arrested Derosier for breach of peace and criminal trespass.
Derosier is not a student. He is over six feet tall and weighs over 215 pounds. From the moment of his arrest, he was belligerent and uncooperative, refusing to answer questions or have his photograph taken. Because he was under the influence, he was put in a temporary cell to sober up. The holding cell had been converted from a large closet. Derosier began kicking and knocking holes in the walls. He then scooped up large chucks of the sheetrock and threw them around the detention cell, yelling obscenities at the police officers. Officer Praisner gave Derosier a stern warning to settle down or he would use pepper spray. Derosier ignored the warning and continued to vandalize the holding cell.
Since Derosier was out of control, Officer Praisner used pepper spray as he had advised him he would do. Derosier responded by dislodging another piece of the wall and trying to slash his own wrist. “[Expletive deleted] this, I’m going to cut myself. I am suicidal,” he said, taking a piece of the sheetrock and slashing his own thigh a total of 22 times. Then he slashed his wrist eight times and began throwing more pieces around the cell, despite warnings that he must calm down or have another dose of pepper spray.
As he continued to act violently, Officer Craig used crowd control mist in an attempt to control his behavior. Derosier eventually said he had enough, and the officers removed him from the building to use an outside hose for decontamination. Paramedics examined Derosier, but they found that he needed no medical attention. He was then taken to the municipal police department lockup.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Windham, and the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney. The first trial in June resulted in a hung jury. A new trial will be scheduled soon. LELDF has taken on this case, and we will engage Urey Patrick, a former FBI agent and instructor at the FBI Training Facility at Quantico, Virginia, to examine the evidence and demonstrate that the officers were following regulations during the arrest.
The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund is assisting Officers Craig and Praisner in this case and ask for your generous assistance.