SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Two police officers used excessive force while arresting two Latino teenagers, and one of the officers said “welcome to the white man’s world,” according to a federal indictment unsealed in Massachusetts.
Springfield police Officer Gregg Bigda and former detective Steven Vignault were arrested Wednesday and were due to make an initial appearance later in the day in federal court, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Bigda is a current member of the police department in Springfield, the third-largest city in Massachusetts, and served a 60-day suspension in connection with the February 2016 confrontation.
Vigneault, a detective, has since retired. Messages left with attorneys for the two men were not returned.
According to the indictment, Bigda kicked one of the teens in the head during the arrest, which occurred in the town of Palmer following a pursuit that began in Springfield after the youths allegedly stole an unmarked police car.
Bigda also spat on the boy and made the “welcome to the white man’s world” comment, prosecutors said. Vigneault was also charged with using excessive force on the other teen.
Both teens were injured, according to the indictment.
Bigda faces additional charges of filing a false police report and in connection with obscenity-laden threats he allegedly made during a subsequent interrogation of one of the suspects that the indictment described as “so abusive that it shocks the conscience.”
At one point, Bigda pointed to blood on his boot and warned the teen that if he lied, his blood would be on the boot, as well, the indictment said.
“Even in the face of adversity, law enforcement officers are expected to conduct themselves professionally, respectfully, and with integrity,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement.
“They are ambassadors for the rule of law, and when they themselves break those laws, they violate not just the rights of their victims, but compromise the public’s trust in law enforcement.”
Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri said Bigda has been suspended from the force without pay due to the indictment, according to Masslive.com.