FALL RIVER - A Massachusetts man who claims he was assaulted and injured while in police custody in late 2020 has reached a $65,000 settlement with the city.
William Harvey, 57, who was living in Fall River at the time of his arrest after a domestic complaint, claims city patrol officer Nicholas Hoar hit him with a police baton and slammed his head into a door while he was handcuffed and being led out of a van outside the police station on Dec. 21, 2020.
The incident has led to an ongoing FBI investigation, according to sources. Since the incident, Hoar - who was on desk duty and taken off patrol at the time that Harvey was arrested - has been on paid administrative leave from the department, confirmed Fall River Police Chief Paul Gauvin.
Harvey said he settled the case "because I just wanted it over with," and has decided to come forward about his encounter with the FRPD.
"My whole thing with doing this, is so this exact culture stops in the Fall River Police Department," said Harvey.
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Hoar is at the heart of the multimillion-dollar federal civil lawsuit for the shooting death of 19-year-old New Bedford man Larry Ruiz-Barreto at the Fall River Industrial Park in 2017, where drivers had gathered to watch a drag race.
Hoar shot six rounds through the windshield of Ruiz-Barreto's 1997 Acura. The teenager allegedly attempted to flee after he was ordered by the officer to stop.
Hoar claimed he was hit by the vehicle and landed on the hood of the car when he fired at Ruiz-Barreto.
The New Bedford man's father and another relative were in the car at the time.
After an investigation conducted by the Bristol County District Attorney's office that did not sent to a grand jury, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III concluded that evidence showed Hoar was justified in his use of deadly force.
A civil case is pending against Hoar and a list of other officers - including those who brawled with family members in the lobby of Charlton Memorial Hospital's Emergency Room when Ruiz-Barreto was pronounced dead.
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Harvey claims he had talks with agents
Harvey still faces criminal charges of felony assault with a deadly weapon, felony assault on a police officer, and misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest, assault and battery and assault of a household member.
He is due back in court for a pre-trial status hearing on Sept. 9.
As first reported in March 2021 by The Herald News, Kristen Setera, of the FBI Office of Public Affairs in Boston, again declined to confirm any investigation by the federal agency.
Setera said the FBI's standard practice is to neither confirm nor deny the existence of a pending investigation.
But Harvey claimed he's met with FBI investigators several times since the alleged assault in police headquarters, and in November a federal grand jury was supposed to convene on the case, but due to the COVID pandemic, could not assemble a jury.
Two sources close to the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, indicate a federal grand jury is convened in the case against Hoar currently.
Harvey said his first contact with an FBI investigator was at the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow, where he was being held for the Fall River arrest. He said a family member contacted the FBI over the alleged assault by Hoar.
Harvey said he's recently been in contact with the FBI and that there continues to be an active investigation.
At the time of the December 2020 incident, then-Police Chief Jeffrey Cardoza, after an open records request to the FRPD, said the department began an internal investigation into the excessive force claim, but ended the probe after the FBI became involved.
After his arrest by FRPD, the Bristol County District Attorney's office successfully had Harvey declared a danger so he could be held without bail.
Harvey acknowledges that he has an extensive criminal background, including a 10-year stint in prison for statutory rape before his release in 2007. But except for an arrest in 2011, the Fall River case and a charge of failure to register as a sex offender in Chicopee, he said he has stayed out of trouble and is employed in construction and property management, most recently in Nevada, where his elderly parents live.
At the time the DA's office had the court declare him dangerous, Harvey was out on bail for the Chicopee case. A check of court records shows the four-year-old case was settled this spring.
Hoar reported he was assaulted
In a police report authored by Hoar regarding the incident at headquarters, Hoar claims Harvey kicked him during a struggle between the two, when the police officer was attempting to place him in a cell block in the police department's booking room.
"While Harvey was kicking me, I simultaneously pushed Harvey way [sic] to create distance. Harvey was pushed back into the cell toward the bench. I regained my footing and noticed he was now bleeding from his forehead after striking the wall. Harvey was placed in handcuffs and the cell was secured," according to Hoar's account.
Hoar also indicated that at one point he asked a fellow officer for his baton and "used it to lock Harvey's right arm behind him in an escort position and guide him down the cell block."
He said Harvey hit his head on the jail cell wall in the struggle.
It is unclear if there is any police surveillance video that captured the struggle between the two men.
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Harvey tells a different story
Harvey claims that's not how it happened. He said after being arrested, handcuffed and transported to police headquarters by a van, the assault happened before he even entered the building.
"When they first took me out of the paddy wagon, the first thing Hoar said to me, he screamed at the top of his lungs, 'Stop resisting.' I was already cuffed and I was acting peacefully," said Harvey. "I was like, 'What the hell are you talking about?'"
That's when, he says, Hoar took the baton and hit Harvey in the kneecap. He alleges that Hoar had his hand on the back of his neck with his hand cuffed behind him, with two other officers on either side and pushed him head-first into an outer door.
"No, they drove me into the door," said Harvey.
Harvey was taken by ambulance to Charlton Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for a head injury.
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Harvey provided the medical records from the trip to the emergency room, where he was treated for a forehead laceration, and another medical record when he was treated while at the Ludlow hospital for the knee injury from the strike with the police baton.
He also showed a picture that shows a contusion on his forehead.
"It's a cover-up. They are covering it up," said Harvey.
After his dangerousness hearing in December 2020, Harvey spent 120 days in jail. After being released and moving to Nevada, a judge declared that Harvey spend another 102 days in jail and was released in May.
A check of court records in Fall River District Court shows Judge Paul Pino lists "other" to explain how Harvey violated the terms of his bail.
He is currently wearing a GPS tracking device and is not allowed to leave Massachusetts. Harvey said that he was denied the ability to return to Nevada, where, he said, his father is gravely ill.
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The $65,000 settlement
Corporation Counsel Alan Rumsey, who negotiated the $65,000 settlement between the city and Harvey, was unavailable for comment.
But according to the settlement document provided by Harvey, the agreement releases the city, the FRPD and Hoar of any future litigation, including claims that the police department violated his civil rights.
As for Harvey's pending criminal trial, it is unknown if Hoar or other police officers involved in the case will be called to the stand.
Jo C. Goode may be reached at email@example.com. Support local journalism and subscribe to The Herald News today!
This article originally appeared on The Herald News: Man hurt in Fall River police custody settles lawsuit for $65K