Stratford cop cleared in probe of fight
Phil Helsel, Register Staff
STRATFORD — An internal affairs investigation has cleared a police officer accused of punching a 14-year-old girl in the face while breaking up a large fight in the South End in March.
Police Chief Michael Imbro and Mayor James R. Miron cited "vastly disparate accounts" from witnesses to the March 21 disturbance, during which Officer David Gugliotti allegedly punched Titasheen Mitchell in the face and arrested Councilman Alvin O’Neal, who tried to intervene.
But there were also two different accounts of how the investigation played out.
At a news conference to announce the results Friday, Imbro and Miron called the 60-day investigation into Gugliotti and four other officers a "long, thorough, exhaustive process" during which police practically begged Titasheen to give her side of the story. But the girl’s mother said Friday at the press conference that no such attempts were made.
"The town never requested to speak to Titasheen," said her mother, Marcia Mitchell-Davis, who accused Gugliotti of punching her daughter, and four other officers of either harassing her after the incident or refusing to provide the girl medical care. "My daughter is the victim."
Imbro said police called her several times and sent a letter requesting an interview, but received no response.
In clearing Gugliotti and police Capt. Mark DeLieto, Lt. Michael Fernandez, Sgt. Celeste Robitaille and Officer Shaun Martinez, Imbro said the investigation could find no physical evidence that the officers violated departmental policy, and that 12 witnesses to the fight interviewed by police all gave different accounts of what had happened.
According to statements taken by police, some of the witnesses said that Gugliotti slammed Titasheen onto the trunk of a police cruiser twice as she was being arrested and that he punched her, but several others said that Titasheen struck Gugliotti in the mouth while struggling with him.
Miron said that all town employees would undergo diversity and sensitivity training as a result of the incident, and that the town is outfitting police cruisers with video cameras and audio recorders to clear up similar situations in the future. He said Gugliotti admitted to using profanity as he and others tried to break up the crowd but denied that the officer ever used racial slurs directed at Titasheen, O’Neal or anyone else.
The girl and O’Neal are black, while Gugliotti is white.
Charles Kurmay, O’Neal’s attorney, said Friday that he had not read the report and couldn’t comment on the internal affairs investigation, but he said that O’Neal can resolve his criminal case without a conviction.
O’Neal was charged interfering with police and breach of peace. Two other juveniles involved in the fight were charged with assault, breach of peace and interfering with police. Titasheen was also charged with those crimes as well as one count of assault on a police officer.
Mitchell-Davis said her daughter suffered contusions to her back and neck and is undergoing physical therapy.
Police union President Shawn Farmer said Friday that Miron "illegally placed (Gugliotti) on administrative leave because David enforced the law ... and arrested Jim Miron’s friend, Alvin O’Neal."
"I arrested one of the mayor’s friends and he took it out on me," Gugliotti said Friday.
©New Haven Register 2006