Cops Yelled ‘Welcome to the White Man’s World’ as They Beat Latino Teens, Feds Charge
Two Springfield, Massachusetts, officers were charged Wednesday with beating and threatening to kill two Latino boys in 2016, per a newly unsealed complaint.
Two Massachusetts police officers were arrested and charged in federal court on Wednesday for allegedly beating and threatening to kill two Latino teenage boys during a 2016 arrest—all while allegedly welcoming them to the “white man’s world.”
Filed in Hampden County, the indictment—which was unsealed on Wednesday—charged Springfield officers Gregg Bigda and Steven Vigneault with using excessive force on the two teenagers.
Bidga was additionally charged with abusive interrogation and obstructing justice by writing a false report. If convicted, the officers could face up to 10 years in prison.
“Even in the face of adversity, law enforcement officers are expected to conduct themselves professionally, respectfully, and with integrity,” U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said in a press release. “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.”
The incident occured in February 2016, when the two boys allegedly stole an undercover police vehicle that was parked near a local pizza shop. Vigneault, a former narcotics detective, was inside the restaurant picking up an order at the time, authorities confirmed to The Daily Beast.
After a short police chase, the teens were found on the “porch of a home by a K-9 unit,” the indictment said, where Bigda arrested and allegedly spat and beat the boys, before telling them: “Welcome to the white man's world.”
Back the the police state, Bigda interrogated the teens, never reading them their Miranda rights or calling their parents for consent.
“During that interrogation Bigda threatened to, among other things, ‘crush [one teen’s] skull and fucking get away with it,’ ‘fucking bring the dog back and let him fucking go after after’ one of the boys, and ‘fucking kill [the boy] in the parking lot,’” the complaint stated.
The complaint said that Bigda went even further, eventually claiming he could plant a “kilo of coke” in the teenager’s pocket and put him away for “fucking 15 years” and kick him right in the “fucking face as soon as they cross the Springfield line.”
He also allegedly threatened to “beat the fuck out of” the second teenager’s “bloody body,” pointing to the blood already on his boot, the indictment said.
Though allegedly not vocal like his partner, Vigneault also used “unreasonable force” which “involved a dangerous weapon,” the complaint stated.
Bidga has repeatedly denied all the allegations and filed two reports with the department’s Internal Investigations Unit which documented the arrests. The federal indictment claimed both reports were falsified.
All of these threats, according to the indictment, were captured on surveillance video at the Palmer Police Station, which was made public by MassLive in 2016 and sparked a civil-rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Following the incident, Bigda was suspended from the Springfield Police Department for 60 days. And on Wednesday, after the indictment was made public, he was suspended again without pay, Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri said in a statement.
“We have no further comments comment during the criminal proceedings,” a spokesperson for the Springfield Police Department told The Daily Beast.
Vigneault left the police department shortly after the altercation in 2016, claiming at the time that he was “bluffed” by the police commissioner to resign.
“Most law enforcement officers are dedicated, honest and fully committed to building trust within their communities, but those who break the law stain the reputation of the law enforcement profession,” Harold H. Shaw, the FBI agent in charge of the Boston Field Division, said in a press release on Wednesday. “Badges and guns do not come with the authority to ignore the Constitution or the rights of others, and those who violate it will be held accountable.”
In August, one of the teenagers filed a lawsuit against the officers, claiming he suffered “two black eyes” and “repeated attack” by the police dog while he was in custody.
The boy also alleged that while in handcuffs, he repeatedly yelled, “They’re going to kill me!” to which Bigda spat on him and allegedly replied, “Welcome to white town, motherfuckers,” the federal complaint stated.
The lawsuit also alleged that Bidga was intoxicated at the time, prompting Vigneault to stop for pizza in an effort to sober him up. "Officer Vigneault knew that Officer Bigda had been drinking rum, and he hoped that eating pizza would help him sober up," the complaint read.
Wednesday’s indictment is just the latest in a series of civil allegations against Bidga. In a similarly racially fuelled instance, Bidga allegedly assaulted a pregnant woman while claiming “I hate Puerto Ricans,” and has allegedly pepper-sprayed puppies to death, according to the August lawsuit.