Burlington Police Review Use Of Force Caught On Video

Nov 3, 2014

Burlington Police officials are conducting a review of an incident over the weekend that was caught on video.

In a video posted to YouTube user Cody Weinberger (no relation to Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, according to the mayor’s office), two men who appear to be police officers are seen near the intersection of Main Street and South Winooski Avenue, near the popular bar Nectar’s and Mr. Mike’s Pizza.

Warning: This video contains explicit language.

The two officers are crouching over a person who is face down on the street, yelling at the nearby crowd of bystanders to keep their distance. One officer appears to repeatedly punch the person on the ground. The other officer appears to use pepper spray or mace on a person who approached the officers and the person on the ground.

Burlington Deputy Police Chief Bruce Bovat said Monday morning that officials are “doing a complete review” of the incident, including the use of force. Bovat also said Burlington Police had not received any official complaints related to the incident, though officials on the force are familiar with the video. Bovat said videos, generally, can depict a small part of a larger event and lack context. 

In an effort to improve transparency and accountability on the force, Burlington Police announced in September that the entire force will be equipped with body-worn cameras to record their actions by mid-2015. Bovat said he was not sure as of Monday morning whether any officers involved with the incident in question were wearing body cameras that recorded the entirety of the incident.

Update 2:15 p.m. The Burlington Police Department released a narrative about the incident, describing what happened both before and after the time period captured in the YouTube video.

According to the police statement issued by Burlington Chief Michael Schirling, the man on the ground was Shane Langevin, age 20, of Winooski. Police were responding to a report of a man climbing on a telephone pole in the area when they saw Langevin hit another man in the head.

As they immediately attempted to take Langevin into custody for the assault he refused to place his hands behind his back to be handcuffed.  A struggle ensued and Langevin was brought temporarily to the ground.  As the two officers were attempting to get Langevin into handcuffs Langevin attempted to stand up and delivered a blow with his elbow to the right eye of Officer Ryan Rabideau. Langevin also struck Officer Ethan Czyzewski in the jaw during the struggle.  Langevin freed himself and began to try to flee.  Langevin was Tased, which temporarily stopped him and caused him to fall to the ground. 

The narrative continues, saying that "officers delivered several strikes to Langevin's back in an effort to get him to free his hands.

"These strikes are consistent with officer training and are referred to as 'distractionary strikes' done in hopes of distracting or stunning someone to assist in gaining control," Schirling said in his statement.

According to Schirling's release, Langevin is being held on charges of Simple Assault, Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer (two counts), Resisting Arrest and Disorderly Conduct. Michael Mazza, age 32, of Colchester, was the person in the video who was pepper sprayed. He faces the charge of Impeding a Public Officer.

The release also notes that officers who arrived to assist the two officers in the YouTube video were wearing body cameras that were recording. Schirling said that video will be released Monday.

Update 4:30 p.m. Burlington Deputy Police Chife Bruce Bovat said Monday that no officers involved with the Main Street incident are under criminal investigation or any internal investigation other than a standard use of force review.

Burlington Police also claim that Mazza and Langevin "were not together and may not have known each other," but Langevin's Facebook profile shows him as being friends with a "Mike Mazza" who recently posted saying "Im all good everyone the Burlington pd was definitely out of line."

Bovat said all officers involved remain on active duty.