Friday, April 25, 2014

Officers David Ayotte & John Melanson Accused of Excessive Force

Investigators have uncovered allegations that two Bellingham, Mass., police officers using excessive force falsely arrested a woman.

The troubling events leading up to the arrest were all caught on camera. Team 5 Investigates' Kathy Curran obtained the exclusive video showing exactly what happened.

Holly Graham, 29, struggled with the two police officers moments before she was placed under arrest in October 2012.

Watch video of encounter with police

The events leading up to her arrest were recorded by Graham on her iPhone which show her questioning the officers as they were leaving her apartment.  Graham told Team 5 she wanted to know why they showed up at her apartment, knocked down her door and searched her home without a warrant.

According to the police report, Officer David Ayotte and Officer John Melanson were looking for Graham's friend who was wanted by police on an outstanding warrant.  Graham claims police told her they were responding to a complaint for loud music.

"Where's the warrant at? You came for loud music, right? That's what you came for? What's that? Loud music?" the video records Graham shouting as she followed both officers down stairs.

A short struggle then ensued in the stairway when the phone was dropped and the video shows Graham on the ground with Ayotte on top of her.

"Can you tell me what was happening at that point?" asked Team 5 Investigates' Curran.

"He had pushed my head into my stairs which split my lip and he was pushing my head against the stairs," said Graham.

Ayotte then accused her of threatening him with a fork as Melanson stood nearby.

"You got a fork in your hand, you come after me?" asked Ayotte.

"I'm not coming after you. I did not come after you," said Graham.

"Who the (expletive) do you think you are?" asked Ayotte.

"I did not come after you," reiterated Graham.

"You're going to jail now, (expletive)," said Ayotte.

According to the police report, Ayotte wrote he felt threatened and at a disadvantage. He said during the skirmish the fork struck the side of his head leaving abrasions.

"You never threatened with a fork?" asked Curran.

"Never," answered Graham.

"Why did you have a fork in your hand," asked Curran.

"I was cooking dinner, I didn't realize I had the fork in my hand," said Graham.

The officers threatened to use chemical spray on her twice. Graham was arrested and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and assault and battery on a police officer. Prosecutors later dismissed all of the charges.

"Had she not had the videotape, she might have ended up being convicted because it would have been her word against the word of two police officers," said attorney Howard Friedman, who is representing Graham.

Friedman has filed a lawsuit in federal court against officers Ayotte and Melanson alleging they violated Graham's civil rights by illegally entering her apartment, falsely arresting her and using excessive force.

Ayotte declined Team 5's requests for an interview.

"We'd like to ask you some questions about the incident with Holly Graham," said Curran.

"I have no comment, I'm sorry," said Ayotte.

"You think this was a case of excessive force?" asked Curran.

"I have no comment," said Ayotte.

His attorney, Kareem Morgan, told Team 5 Investigates Ayotte believes his actions were justified and he did what was necessary to defend himself.

Melanson never got back to Team 5 Investigates despite repeated requests for comment.

"I look at police a whole other way now. You know, I don't look at them as protectors or public servants. I fear them and you shouldn't fear the people who are supposed to help you," said Graham.

Bellingham Police Chief Gerry Daigle told Team 5 Investigates his department did not conduct an internal investigation because he believes his officers' actions were justified.

This wasn't the first time the police officers involved had contact with Graham. At the time of this incident, Graham had faced charges in several different cases but was never convicted.

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