Springfield Mayor responds to claims of a cover-up in alleged attack

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Four unarmed black men claim they were attacked by a group of off-duty cops. Their attorney says the police then tried to cover it up.

The 22News I-Team is digging deeper into excessive force complaints made against Springfield officers.

In 2014 and 2015, Springfield's Community Police Hearing Board received 128 civilian complaints of excessive force by Springfield police officers. The 22News I-Team reviewed the findings and in just four incidents were the complaints sustained. That means there's sufficient evidence the actions of the officers were improper.

One of those few incidents there were sustained happened 20 months ago in a parking lot outside Nathan Bill's Restaurant and Bar.

Paul Cumby, Jackie Ligon, Jozelle Ligon and Michael Cintron allege that 8 to 10 off-duty cops jumped them in the parking lot of Nathan Bill’s Bar and Restaurant in Springfield. The attorney for the Ligon’s and Cintron told the I-Team that the dispute started when one of his clients whistled at the bartender in an attempt to get a drink.

Attorney Joe Smith said one of the off-duty police officers took offense, because the bartender may have been his girlfriend, and became physically aggressive.

Later that night, his clients allege they were attacked and a baton and taser gun was used during the melee. Cumby had his teeth knocked loose, suffered a broken leg and a concussion, said Smith. Attorney Michelle Cruz is representing Cumby.

Attorney Joe Smith claims the responding police officers covered the attack up in a report saying their were only minor injuries. 22News I-Team reporter Tamara Sacharyzk took those allegations to the mayor.

(Was that covered up?) "No not whatsoever, not whatsoever," said Mayor Domenic Sarno. "People are entitled to their opinion, but know the facts the facts have to come forward,"

(When did you first find out about it (the alleged attack)?) "I was made aware of it, not too long ago while the situation was going and the investigation was pending. when it's under investigation, the investigation has to move forward," said Mayor Sarno.

The District Attorney is currently reviewing the incident for possible criminal charges.

Springfield has paid out $2.1-million in police misconduct cases in the last five years. Four cases are pending in federal court.

One of the four cases in federal court involves Justin Douglas. He says Detective Gregg Bigda punched him in the jaw and he was hit in the head with the blunt end of a gun. A federal judge is allowing Douglas' defense attorney to argue that the Springfield police department has failed to supervise, investigate and discipline its officers.

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