Excessive Force Lawsuit Against Tewksbury Police Is Dismissed
Nov 02, 2018 06:07PM
By Lisa Redmond
Tewksbury Police Headquarters.
BOSTON – A federal judge has dismissed an allegation of excessive force by the Tewksbury police in the 2013 arrest of a then 84-year-old woman accused of assaulting her ailing husband, but kept alive her allegations of threats, intimidation and coercion by police.
In a Sept. 28 decision, U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani allowed the town’s motion to dismiss the excessive force claim against the police in Alice E. O’Connell’s 2015 civil rights lawsuit in connection with her May 24, 2013 arrest. Talwani wrote that she granted a motion to dismiss because O’Connell’s attorney, Dianne M. O’Brien, that her client did not intend to claim excessive force.
However, Talwani kept the lawsuit active after rejecting the town’s request for a motion to dismiss O’Connell’s claims that police lacked probable cause to arrest her and denied the town’s motion to dismiss O’Connell’s allegations that she was subjected to threats, intimidation and coercion.
At O’Connell’s May 30, 2013 arraignment in Lowell District Court, prosecutors explained police were called to the couple's Tewksbury home at 11:35 a.m. for an "out-of-control elderly man." O'Connell told police she and her then 87-year-old husband, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, argued because she turned on the house alarm and he turned it off, according to court documents.
O'Connell told police she was afraid her husband might get violent. She said she told police that his physical aggression increased as his illness progressed.
An officer who responded to the home noticed the husband's right wrist was bleeding. O'Connell denied she harmed her husband and he never accused is wife of scratching him.
The lawsuit alleges that Sgt. Walter Jop was "continually trying to put words in O'Connell's mouth which were not true and she did not say."
When O’Connell objected to Jop's false statements, Jop allegedly told her she was being "awfully pushy." When she called Jop pushy and threatened to sue, he allegedly retaliated by grabbing her arm, forcing her to turn around and handcuffing her, the lawsuit alleges.
O'Connell was arrested and charged with assault and battery on a person over 60 and threats. O’Brien claims that O'Connell's arrest was "not based upon probable cause but was instead motivated by Mrs. O'Connell's verbal objections to (the officer's) wrongful behavior.’’
Lowell District Court Judge Thomas Brennan, on Aug. 23, 2013, dismissed both charges against O'Connell after O'Brien argued there wasn't probable cause to support the charges.
Talwani wrote that based on the disputed facts in this case, “a reasonable jury could find there was not probable cause…’’
During her arrest, O'Connell complained the handcuffs were too tight and caused her pain and numbness. She was transported to the hospital, not due to the marks on her skin from the tight handcuffs, but because she was “very, very angry,’’ the judge wrote.
As for allegations of threats, intimidation and coercion, Talwani wrote those allegations are best left up to a jury to decide.
After the incident, O'Connell placed her husband in an assisted-living facility. On July 4, 2014, Thomas O'Connell died at Lowell General Hospital. He was a retired Lowell Fire Department deputy chief and a firefighter for more than 45 years, according to his obituary.