Testimonies continue in third day of Peabody police assault trial

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 — A jury in federal court heard the testimony of the man who alleges he was beaten by Peabody police in a McDonald’s bathroom nearly four years ago.

The main officer alleged to be involved in the assault also testified, as well as the neurologist who treated the boy for a brain injury that resulted in seizures following the incident. 

Tyler Leger-Broskey was 16 years old when he was apprehended in a McDonalds and allegedly assaulted by Peabody Officers David McGovern and Antonio Santos. He says he was invoking his Fifth Amendment rights not to answer questions when the attack happened.

The encounter happened in March 2015 when police stopped Leger-Broskey and a friend after McDonalds contacted police about the two boys possessing marijuana in the restaurant. 

“McGovern grabbed my upper body, spun me and slammed me against the wall,” Leger-Broskey testified Wednesday.

“That never happened,” McGovern reported in his testimony. McGovern and Santos testified that they simply approached the boys and searched them for the marijuana, discarding the small amount they found.

“I had sweet and sour sauce in my jacket pocket … after being thrown against the wall they exploded,” Leger-Broskey said. He testified that although the officers told the boys not to return to the McDonalds, Leger-Broskey was a paying customer who needed to clean himself, so the boys entered the restaurant again to clean up. McDonalds contacted the police again, and McGovern arrived minutes later, he said Wednesday.

McGovern testified he continuously informed the boys that they were trespassing and that they were to leave, but felt that the boys were “playing stupid.” 

Leger-Broskey testified that he was never given the opportunity to leave the encounter. McGovern issued a citation when Leger-Broskey wouldn’t give him an address, but Leger-Broskey denied the officer ever mentioned the citation and McGovern placed Leger-Broskey under arrest instead.

“The plaintiff stepped back into the rear and my momentum carried me towards him,”McGovern said. “When we went through the threshold [of the McDonald’s bathroom], we tripped and ended up on the floor.”

“I ended up getting grabbed by my t-shirt and thrown into the bathroom,” Leger-Broskey testified. 

Leger-Broskey claimed he hit his head “on the wall or on the floor” during the fall. 

“My face was on the ground … I felt punches to my upper body.”

Leger-Broskey testified that he offered to be arrested if the attack stopped and claimed either McGovern or Santos responded, “it’s too late for that.”

“He was doing anything not be be handcuffed,” McGovern testified. “He was kicking … We were all over the place.”

Officer McGovern testified that he gave two warnings to Leger-Broskey before administering pepper spray while Leger-Broskey lay face-down on the bathroom floor.

“I felt my head get picked up,” said Leger-Broskey. “They sprayed me directly in the face. My eyes were burning, I had snot and tears all over my face and eyes, it was very discombobulating … I still felt punches in my upper body and back. It felt like a lifetime … I didn’t know why they were doing this to me.”

Leger-Broskey also alleged that his eyes were never flushed at any time by the police following his arrest. 

McGovern said the plaintiff was treated at the police station.

Prosecutors referenced the use of force report filled out by McGovern shortly after the arrest, noting that McGovern never had the document signed by a supervisor and did not report that Leger-Broskey had been kicking or that he had been transported to a hospital after being booked at the police station.

Following the incident, Leger-Broskey began seeking treatment for traumatic brain injury from Dr. Karameh Hawash-Kuemmerle, a neurologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Hawash-Kuemmerle testified Wednesday that the plaintiff saw her about a week after the incident and registered a 90 out of 132 on a post-concussion symptom test, a score Dr. Hawash-Kuemmerle characterized as “very severe.” 

Dr. Hawash-Kuemmerle testified that following the incident, Leger-Broskey displayed symptoms of severe headaches, trouble with balance, issues with sleep, attention and anxiety, as well as symptoms of mood changes and emotional impairments. 

When Leger-Broskey met with Dr. Hawash-Kuemmerle four months after the incident, he reported the headaches had gotten better but that he now suffered from seizures. A few days before the second meeting with Dr. Hawash-Kuemmerle, Leger-Broskey’s father found his son had fallen in the shower while having a “gasping, drooling seizure,” Dr. Hawash-Kuemmerle testified Wednesday. 

Lawyers for the defense brought into question the timeline and relevance of Leger-Browskey’s injuries, citing a car crash the plaintiff was involved in on June 13, 2015. Defense lawyer Stephen Pfaff reported the plaintiff was not wearing a seat-belt during the crash and shattered the windshield with his head.

Leger-Broskey testified that he last suffered from a seizure in May 2016, over a year after the McDonald’s incident. The plaintiff reports he is still suffering from severe headaches a few times a week.

“I ended up graduating two years later than I was supposed to,” said Leger-Broskey. “I can’t drive. I stopped band. I stopped theater. I live with my family still because I’m afraid to live by myself.”

Leger-Broskey will conclude his testimony Thursday and the court will adjourn for a verdict Nov. 12. 

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