A Mattapan man should not have been tossed in a holding cell for several hours after he was arrested on Boylston Street near Tremont by a Boston police officer who mistook him for somebody else who had warrants out for his arrest, a federal jury decided this week.
The jury awarded George Savage $12,750 for false imprisonment after a trial over his lawsuit against BPD Officer Karl Dugal for his 2014 arrest on Boylston Street, outside St. Francis House.
The jury actually agreed with Dugal that he had the right to arrest Savage - even if he was mistaken about who he was - and said he did not use excessive force during the arrest or pile on excessive charges, but that S
avage should have been released as soon as police learned he was the wrong guy. Savage had sought a total of $100,000 in his suit, filed in US District Court in Boston.
Savage who is black, bald and middle aged, said he was standing on Boylston Street in Chinatown minding his own business around 9:30 a.m. on June 16, 2014, when Dugal spotted him and mistook him for Robert Green, who is black, bald and middle aged, but who was wanted on drug and motor-vehicle charges out of Dorchester court.
Savage claimed that when Dugal began questioning him, he told him his name, said he had no outstanding warrants and then began walking away, followed by Dugal. Savage said that, with the aid of two other officers, Dugal threw him to the ground in the alley next to St. Francis House where he was handcuffed and taken to District A-1 for booking on charges of disorderly conduct, assault and battery on a public employee and making threats. He was then put in a lockup for several hours.
In November, 2016, a Boston Municipal Court judge dismissed one of the charges; a jury then acquitted Savage of the other three.
In his answer to the lawsuit, Dugal, represented by city attorneys, admits he thought Savage was Green, and went to arrest him based on that, but said that was an honest mistake, which he is allowed to make under the Constitution and court rulings, and said the charges he brought against Savage were based on his actions after being approached. He said Savage refused to say who he was, which was part of the probable cause to arrest him:
Officer Dugal asked for the Plaintiff's name. Plaintiff did not provide an answer but instead shouted curses at Officer Dugal. Officer Dugal explained that Plaintiff looked like someone, Robert Green, for whom a warrant had issued. Officer Dugal asked Plaintiff for identification, which Plaintiff refused to provide. Plaintiff began to walk away. Officer Dugal still believed Plaintiff to be Robert Green and followed him, continuing to ask for Plaintiff's identification. Plaintiff shouted at people in the area words to the following effect: "This guy keeps f---ing with me; watch what happens," and "you better stop f---ing with me or else." This was a public area which was heavily trafficked in the early morning hours.
At the intersection of Boylston Street and Head Place [the alley next to St. Francis House], Plaintiff turned around, assumed a bladed stance, and stepped towards Officer Dugal with his fists clenched. Officer Dugal put his hands on Plaintiff's forearms to prevent Plaintiff from raising his arms to assault him. Plaintiff attempted to push off Officer Dugal. Plaintiff continued shouting, yelling, and trying to get the attention of people nearby.
At that point, Officer Dugal decided to place Plaintiff, whom he still believed was possibly Robert Green, under arrest. He asked Plaintiff to put his arms behind his back. Plaintiff refused to put his arms behind his back, and instead flailed his arms and struggled with Officer Dugal, who then yelled to his partner for help. In the meantime, Plaintiff continued pushing off Officer Dugal and pushed Officer Dugal in the chest. At this point, Officer Dugal intended to arrest Plaintiff for disorderly conduct, assault and battery on a public employee, and resisting arrest.
Dugal said that during the ride to District A-1, Savage kicked the cruiser's window; then, during booking, threatened to rape officers with their own guns. He added he learned Savage's real identity during booking, but decided to seek criminal complaints against him for his actions during and after his arrest.