York pediatrician says he was victim of police brutality

Courtesy photo via The York Weekly | BDN
Courtesy photo via The York Weekly | BDN
This image, provided by attorneys for Dr. Stephen Brennan, shows injuries to Brennan's left eye and head that they said he suffered after he was pulled over by a York police officer and then "subjected to a brutal assault by a York police officer and his canine."
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Stephen Brennan, 63, was charged with refusing to submit to arrest or detention after he was pulled over by police at 12:15 a.m. for failure to dim his headlights.
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YORK, Maine — Attorneys for Dr. Stephen Brennan, who was arrested by York police on Sept. 20, are alleging he was subjected to a “brutal assault” by the arresting officer and a police dog, and said they are “disappointed” police did not allow them to access video and audio recordings of the incident after receiving advice of the town’s legal counsel.

Brennan, 63, a longtime York pediatrician, was charged with refusing to submit to arrest or detention after he was pulled over by police at 12:15 a.m. for failure to dim his headlights. Police said in the time that followed, Brennan was aggressive toward the officer and refused to obey verbal commands to stop, warranting the use of the dog, a K-9 officer.

But attorneys Alexander Spadinger and Timothy Harrington of Shaheen and Gordon, P.A., said the “excessive use of force” was unwarranted, leaving Brennan with “lacerations to both of his legs and left arm, a serious injury to his left eye and blunt force trauma to the left side of his head.”

York police Chief Charles Szeniawski said, as with all incidents where use of force occurs, “we investigate this at command staff level. This started right after it happened.” He said no information is being released as the matter is still under active investigation. “As of now, we’ve reached no conclusions whatsoever.”

According to Sgt. Brian Curtin, after officer Jon Rogers pulled over Brennan, the doctor “immediately got out of his vehicle and became aggressive, and ran toward officer Rogers’ cruiser.”

“He kept coming toward officer Rogers in an aggressive manner after repeated orders to stop,” Curtin said. While Brennan “did eventually stop and then moved furtively back toward his vehicle,” Curtin said that behavior was fleeting. “Then he turned around and again charged toward the officer, who thought he was in danger.”

It is at this point that Rogers, K9 officer Gunter’s handler, released the dog, Curtin said. Brennan “still didn’t cooperate and was physically fighting officer Rogers and the dog until he was brought under control,” Curtin said. “There was some kind of verbal exchange, too.”

According to Curtin, there was no evidence that Brennan was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He also said Rogers did not see a weapon of any kind.

“There may have been some medical issues going on, but at the time that wasn’t evident to the officer,” he said.

Brennan’s attorneys did not mention any sort of medical condition in their statement. They said Brennan was subsequently in York Hospital for four days, two days in the intensive care unit. The two attorneys called Brennan “a loving and caring husband, father and pediatrician. He is a quiet, caring and decent man” who has provided “nurturing care to thousands of children and their families in York for the past 30 years.”

Curtin said he looked at the incident through the officer’s eyes and said, “You have to clue in on the irrational behavior.

“Most people stay in the car,” he said. “The use of a dog is less than lethal use of force. If it was one of us, we might have Tazed him or hands-on fought this guy. It was much better use of force with a canine. When I saw this report, I thought everything worked the way it was supposed to work.”

Spadinger said he was assured by police that he could view video and audio recordings of the incident last Friday, but when he arrived at the station, police told him the town’s attorney advised them not to permit access. “The recordings are the only true, unfiltered representation of events that evening,” and they will continue to demand their release, they said.

Szeniawski said he believes Brennan’s attorneys were aware of the fact that police could not release any information until after the investigation is completed.

“We haven’t even released information to the courts,” he said. “We’re still looking to speak with people and are actively in investigation phase. Eventually, everything will get released.”

Brennan is expected to be arraigned in York District Court on Nov. 19.

 



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