SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A University of Massachusetts student has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against five Amherst police officers he claims falsely arrested and assaulted him during the “Blarney Blowout” last March. The plaintiff, Thomas Donovan, alleges that the police acted the way they did because he was recording their activities on video.
According to a news release sent to 22News by the offices of Boston-based Attorney Howard Friedman, the suit was filed in federal court in Springfield Wednesday. It seeks monetary damages for allegedly violating Donovan’s Constitutional rights, and his rights under Massachusetts state law.
Donovan, a senior and legal studies major, says that during the Blarney Blowout on March 8, 2014 he was recording an arrest he believed involved the use of excessive force. Donovan says that while he was doing so, he was approached by a police officer who told him to stop recording. He refused, saying that he had the right to videotape the police, but the officer continued his demands and approached him. As this was taking place, a second officer allegedly pepper sprayed Donovan “from close range.”
A third officer, named in the lawsuit as Sergeant Jesus Arocho, is then accused of swinging his arm toward Donovan; knocking the phone out of his hand. As Donovan was being put in handcuffs, he says a fourth officer stomped on the phone, which was damaged, but the video was not destroyed.
Note: Video contains language some may find offensive.
He says that while he was on the way to the police station, he was denied the ability to clean the pepper spray from his eyes. He finally was able to do so with water from a jail cell sink.
Donovan was suspended from UMass for a semester as a result of the criminal charges, which were later dismissed. The suspension has since been lifted, and Donovan is in his final year of studies at the university.
In addition to Officer Arocho, the only other officer specifically named in the complaint is Officer Andrew Hulse. The others are mentioned only as “John Does 1-3.”