The video went viral with nearly 171,000 views on YouTube. It shows three Bridgeport police officers kicking a defenseless suspect that they just apprehended.
In the aftermath, the officers were placed on paid leave and the beating victim, Orlando Lopez-Soto, filed an excessive-force lawsuit in federal court.
Late last month the civil lawsuit settled for $198,000, according to a published report. Terms of the settlement were supposed to be confidential, lawyers involved in the case said.
The incident occurred in May 2011. Lopez-Soto was stopped by Bridgeport police officers. He got out of his car and ran. The foot chase continued into Beardsley Park, where the alleged police brutality took place once the officers apprehended Lopez-Soto.
The video shows officers Joseph Lawlor and Elson Morales capture the suspect after using a stun gun, which caused Lopez-Soto to fall to the ground. The officers are then seen kicking and stomping the suspect.
A short time later Officer Clive Higgins arrives in another patrol car. In the video, Higgins goes over to the other officers, leans on Morales’ shoulder for support and then begins kicking Lopez-Soto in the area of his head. The video then quickly cuts out.
Lopez-Soto was arrested on gun possession and drug distribution charges. He was later convicted and sentenced to five years behind bars, a sentence he’s still currently serving.
The video was shot by a passerby. Lopez-Soto’s lawyer, Robert Berke, said no one knows who actually shot the video. He said it just showed up on YouTube a short time after the incident.
“The video kind of speaks for itself,” said Berke. “I think the video in this case is most compelling because most of the physical interaction between my client and the officers is caught on video. Sometimes you don’t see the whole picture but in this case it was all captured.”
Berke filed an excessive-force lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport against the three individual officers, which also included state claims for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
A lawyer for one of the officers, Elliot Spector, of Hassett & George, said although the video “doesn’t look good,” there is more to the story. He referred to Lopez-Soto as a “dangerous drug dealer” that had to be captured.
Spector said his client, Morales, was the one who used the stun gun on Lopez-Soto. He claims his client never used any excessive force on the suspect. Spector claims he viewed an enhanced version of the video, which confirms this.
“When [Morales] tased him, he must’ve been 12 feet away from him or something like that and as he’s running up to him, one of the wires raveled around his foot,” said Spector. “That’s what he’s doing on the video. He’s trying to get the wires that are wrapped around his shoe off his shoe. He then he reaches down and removes them from his foot.”
Attorneys for the other two officers could not be reached for comment by press time last week.
Spector acknowledged that the video impacted Bridgeport’s decision to settle the case.
“The video plays a role. You have to consider how the video might affect jurors when they see the video,” said Spector. “People say a picture’s worth a thousand words, then a video is worth 2,000 words.”
A settlement was reached for the claims against all three officers for a reported $198,000. Lopez-Soto will receive the settlement on his release from prison.
According to published reports, the officers could still face criminal charges for their role in the attack.
In addition to this settlement, Berke said he has five pending, unrelated police brutality lawsuits against Bridgeport officers. He said he also has two other cases that haven’t yet been filed.•