Peabody police on trial for allegedly beating a teenager so badly he developed seizures

John Joseph Moackley United States Courthouse, Sept. 18 2019, Boston, MA. Photo by Chris O'Brien/BU News Service

By Chris O’Brien
BU News Service

BOSTON — Jury trial began this week in a civil case against five Peabody police officers and the city itself after the officers were accused of beating a teenager until he developed epilepsy, the boy’s attorney argued Tuesday in federal court. 

Plaintiff Tyler Leger-Broskey claims on March 28, 2015, he was unjustly assaulted while being placed under police custody of Officers David McGovern and Antonio Santos at the McDonalds on Main St. in Peabody. Leger-Broskey states in the legal complaint that he was exercising his right not to answer questions when officers assaulted the then 16-year-old.

“Over time, you could tell that Tyler’s demeanor had somewhat changed,” Alex Pasquale, a friend of Leger-Browskey’s, testified about the plaintiff following the incident. “Before the incident he was a very laid back individual, after the incident he seemed more aggressive … his demeanor had changed from the incident.”

The legal complaint states that Leger-Broskey received a traumatic brain injury from the alleged assault, resulting in “seizures and/or epilepsy.” During the testimonies, prosecutors often referenced a large printed picture of Leger-Broskey lying in a hospital bed bruised and wrapped with bandages.

Leger-Broskey and Pasquale arrived at the McDonalds in the evening and proceeded to smoke marijuana in the bathroom before taking a seat and enjoying soda from the drink dispenser without paying, according to Pasquale’s testimony Tuesday.  

The two were then asked to leave by the manager, who proceeded to contact the Peabody police, according to defense lawyer Stephen Pfaff.

Pasquale testified officers McGovern and Santos approached the boys near the McDonalds, where without warning, the officers pushed the boys up against a brick wall and began conducting a pat-down search. The officers confiscated a pipe and a small amount of marijuana inside a pill bottle. 

In his testimony, Santos reported both officers spoke with the boys before conducting the search.

During the search, Leger-Broskey got sauce on his arm and shirt, so the boys headed back to the McDonalds to clean up, according to the legal complaint. 

Santos testified he instructed the boys that the restaurant management did not want them to return, but Pasquale testified that this information was not made known to them.

The McDonald’s staff contacted police again while the boys cleaned up in the bathroom, and McGovern arrived at the scene first, according to the legal complaint. Santos arrived shortly after, where he testified he saw Leger-Broskey hit McGovern while the officers tried to conduct questioning.

A fight ensued, with Santos testifying that he was “holding back a crowd” while McGovern and Leger-Broskey “went in circles” while fighting, until they “fell through the doorway” of the McDonald’s bathroom. At this point, Pasquale can be seen on security cameras fleeing the McDonald’s in what he described as a “fight or flight” response in his testimony.

Santos described the teenager as a “wild man,” who was strong enough to resist two officers who were over 200 pounds and over six feet tall. The legal complaint described the altercation as officers beating Leger-Broskey while he lie on the bathroom floor. 

Both the legal complaint and Santos’ testimony agree that the physical altercation ended when Leger-Broskey was pepper-sprayed while he was laying face-down in the bathroom. By this time a third officer, James Harkins, arrived to the scene.

Harkins testified that he entered and saw Santos and McGovern holding down Leger-Broskey and trying to connect the handcuffs that they had placed on his arms. The officers then lifted Leger-Broskey from the ground and Harkins led him to his cruiser, adding in his testimony that the teenager was yelling and abrasive throughout.

Leger-Broskey and McGovern are both expected to testify Wednesday.

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