SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 11, 2013

Man sues city, police

Beverly: Lawsuit claims man suffered serious injury during arrest

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — A former star player for the Masconomet Regional High School basketball team has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Beverly and several police officers, saying police ran over his foot while trying to arrest him on a marijuana charge three years ago.

Terrin McCutcheon of Middleton suffered a serious foot injury while being pursued by a Beverly officer who had taken the wheel of the car McCutcheon had been driving before a traffic stop.

The suit alleges that police, who initially sent him to the hospital, took him to the police station hours later, against the advice of doctors, and held him overnight in a cell. By morning, according to the complaint, his foot was in such bad shape that police brought him back to the hospital. Several days later the wound was found to be infected.

McCutcheon’s lawyer, John Moorman, says the 2006 Masco graduate, now 26, still has problems with that foot and can no longer play basketball, which he had enjoyed recreationally.

The cause of the injuries has been in dispute since McCutcheon’s arrest.

While McCutcheon has said since his arrest that his foot was run over by the officer, who drove onto a sidewalk, police have insisted that McCutcheon cut his foot on a broken section of fence when he was pinned there between the fence and his car.

According to the lawsuit, filed late last month in federal court, medical records show that McCutcheon’s foot was crushed, causing the bottom of his foot to split open.

The suit seeks at least $1 million in damages from the city and several officers involved, including two now-former police detectives, Tom Nolan and Sgt. Michael Cassola, who had been conducting surveillance and then stopped McCutcheon.

Nolan and Cassola were watching the area near Park Street for suspected drug activity when they saw a man get into the Hyundai McCutcheon was driving. The Hyundai circled the block, but at one point made a sudden turn at the intersection of Cabot and Rantoul streets. That’s when the officers pulled over the Hyundai, registered to McCutcheon’s girlfriend.

As the police were questioning his passenger and checking the license plate, McCutcheon got out of the car and ran away, down Rantoul Street.

Cassola chased him on foot for about 40 yards, then doubled over in exhaustion and called to Nolan, who was inside the Hyundai at that point, searching the vehicle.

Nolan, according to the lawsuit, decided to drive the Hyundai, rather than the police cruiser stopped directly behind it, to continue the pursuit, something that is believed to be a violation of department policy, according to the complaint.

McCutcheon ran toward the parking lot of the city’s public works department, followed by Nolan, who drove over the curb and onto McCutcheon’s left foot, the suit alleges. The car continued moving forward, pinning him against a fence.

Police later found several bags of marijuana with a total value of about $2,200, some cash and a grinder in the car.

After about 41/2 hours at the Beverly Hospital emergency room, the suit alleges, a doctor recommended that McCutcheon be kept overnight, but instead he was taken to the Beverly police station for booking, according to the complaint. There, three officers on duty, Michael Backstrom, David Grimes and Frank Wojick, allegedly refused McCutcheon’s requests for medical attention, as his foot continued to bleed, according to the complaint.

The following morning, officers on duty called an ambulance to take McCutcheon back to the hospital. He was then brought to court, where he was arraigned on charges of marijuana possession with intent to distribute and moving violations, and then released.

Those charges were later continued without a finding and then dismissed in 2012, according to the court docket.

The complaint says that three days later, he was hospitalized again for several days because of a serious infection that had set in.

“McCutcheon continues to suffer physical and emotional pain and permanent diminished capacity,” Moorman wrote in his complaint.

The suit seeks damages for violations of McCutcheon’s civil rights, for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery, and negligence.

The city has hired an outside legal firm to defend the suit, but has not filed a formal response in court.

Moorman said he sent several letters to the city putting them on notice of the pending case, as required under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, but got no response.

A message left for Beverly police Chief Mark Ray was not returned yesterday.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.