BOSTON (CBS) - A Massachusetts father now faces assault charges six months after criticizing the Salem, NH police and its arrest of a youth hockey coach at an ice rink.
Last month's I-Team story included interviews with several parents about the December incident. Police say they responded to a report of a fight at the rink. Parents say there was no fight and police singled out the coach who was standing between two parents who were having a verbal dispute. The witnesses told the I-Team officers grabbed the coach, brought him to the ground and tased him several times. It was all captured on cell phone video.
Chris Albano was one of several parents who insisted the coach did nothing wrong. Several shared videos show four officers pinning the coach to the floor. "He wasn't going anywhere. There were four cops on him and he wasn't fighting back or anything so there was no reason for that," Albano said in an April 26 story.
But now, six months after the December incident, and just weeks after our report aired, police got an arrest warrant for Albano. The 43-year-old was arrested coming home from vacation at Logan Airport. He was charged with misdemeanors that included disorderly conduct and assaulting a police officer and spent the night in jail. Police allege Albano assaulted Officer Sean Wilson, who was preventing him from videotaping the coach's arrest.
"It sure looks like they're trying to intimidate witnesses," explained New Hampshire civil rights attorney Larry Vogelman.
Tom Nolan is a professor of criminology and spent more than 30 years with the Boston Police Department. He is also surprised at the arrest. "I've never heard of it before in my experience of nearly four decades," he said.
"If it was determined an arrest was warranted in December, it should have been done in December, not six months after the incident," Nolan continued. "This is beyond the pale of what is appropriate and professional police conduct."
The I-Team obtained a copy of Officer Wilson's police report. In it he says, "The situation was extremely dangerous for the three officers on the floor… I was the only officer trying to control the crowd. I removed my flashlight from its holder and turned it on strobe. I did this so if people were unable to video then maybe they would listen to my commands," he said.
Officer Wilson alleges Albano hit his hand when the officer was trying to prevent witnesses from videotaping the coach's arrest, but he makes no mention of being assaulted in his report.
Larry Vogelman says if the officer was trying to prevent the taping, and that was all he was trying to do, it's unconstitutional.
Tom Nolan doesn't believe what he saw on video amounts to assault and battery on a police officer. "There are situations where police are assaulted and beaten, so it's a very serious criminal offense. To diminish and trivialize it like this undermines situations where police officers are legitimately assaulted," he said.
The I-Team has learned that another man who was at the rink that night has been charged with two counts of disorderly conduct.
When the I-Team asked Vogelman what he believes the police motivation was in charging these witnesses he said, "Intimidation. They're saying to all the other people that were there, don't you support this guy, because if you do, you're going to get locked up also."
The I-Team reached out to Salem Police, the District Attorney and the Salem town manager on a number of occasions. All say they are unable to comment on open cases. As we previously reported, the town manager ordered an independent audit of the department to include internal affairs. He tells us a preliminary report is due in a few weeks and final results should be available this summer.
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