Officials discuss excessive force lawsuit over 2013 arrest scuffle

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Officials are in discussion about a civil lawsuit accusing a town police officer of using excessive force that resulted in a broken leg during his 2013 arrest.

Select Board members met in a closed-door session Monday about the federal suit, which was filed by a Pittsfield man in 2016.

Ryan Babcock, 33, is asking for $250,000 in damages for alleged excessive use of force by Great Barrington Police Sgt. Adam Carlotto, and another $85,000 for injuries.

In his complaint, Babcock had also named Fairview Hospital and three emergency room physicians who treated him after the arrest, but that part of the suit has been dismissed.

Select Board Chairman Stephen Bannon said he could not disclose any details of the Monday's meeting, except to say that it was "the first executive session in years" about the lawsuit.

In their report about the incident of June 5, 2013, Carlotto and another officer said they struggled to pull Babcock out of the car in which he and his girlfriend were having a fight in the parking lot of a Park Street apartment building in Housatonic.

His girlfriend was "crying and trembling in the driver's seat," according to the report, and said she "wanted to go home and Babcock wouldn't get out of the car."

Babcock, who was high on narcotics, refused to step out of the car on officers' command, the report said.

After Carlotto used pepper spray, Babcock "began kicking, becoming an assaultive subject," and "landed kicks to my lower legs," the report said.

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Using a baton, Carlotto then "delivered two forward swinging strikes to Babcock's lower leg, a green target area, which ended the assault and he returned to being actively resisting." A "green target area," refers to areas on the body that, when hit with a baton, will do the minimum of damage, while still helping an officer gain control over a resisting person.

More officers arrived in response to calls for backup and helped remove Babcock from the car, where he grew "extremely combative and forced the situation into a ground fight."

Ultimately, it took five officers to subdue and handcuff Babcock, the report said.

But in his civil complaint, Babcock said Carlotto sprayed him with pepper spray "without any justifiable reason." And he describes a sustained beating with "nothing to warrant" it.

"When Carlotto sprayed Plaintiff, officer Storti grabbed at his leg, jamming it against the door hinge of the car, and Defendant Carlotto started beating his leg with the baton ... they kept up the assault beating him with the baton," he said in the complaint.

After taking Babcock into custody, police found him with a number drugs, including four small bags of cocaine and 24 oxycodone pills. Because he was uncooperative and "nodding off" at the police station, he was taken by ambulance to Fairview after an evaluation.

Babcock was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault and battery on a police officer, and several drug possession and distribution charges. Some of the charges were later dropped as part of a plea deal, and he was sentenced to three to four years in the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction. He has since been released.

He had previously been sentenced to four to six years in prison on charges of selling cocaine, conspiracy to violate drug laws, and selling drugs in a drug-free school zone after a summer 2004 drug sweep in Great Barrington.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @ BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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