During the week before the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, a mayoral staffer viewed a link to a newly posted YouTube video taken in May of 2011 showing three Bridgeport police officers stomping suspect Orlando Lopez-Soto who had been dropped by a police stun gun in Beardsley Park after a police chase. Appearing motionless on the ground Lopez-Soto is kicked repeatedly by three different police officers Joseph Lawlor, Elson Morales and Clive Higgins. The beating has become a YouTube marvel having received tens of thousands of hits since it hit the media over the weekend, but in that moment when the mayoral staffer had reviewed the video it had been seen just a few dozen times.
The YouTube sensation has taken on a life of its own, captivating media audiences from around the country. What if the mayoral staffer had done nothing after the link was brought to attention? Perhaps it would have surfaced at some point, but when the mayor’s office brings something to the Police Department the brass is gonna take a look.
Once Police Chief Joe Gaudett reviewed the video it did not take long for a process to be set in motion. The Police Department’s Office of Internal Affairs, which technically reports to the mayor, began an investigation. State and federal law enforcement officials were also contacted in case they wanted to conduct independent reviews of police conduct. Once the cat is out of the bag it’s best for everyone to cover their asses. The cops were removed from patrol and assigned to desk jobs.
A lawyer representing Lopez-Soto has filed a civil complaint in federal court, local and state representatives of the NAACP are screaming for action against the three police officers, lawyers in Bridgeport’s City Attorney’s Office are trying to figure out how to mitigate damages. One thing is clear, this case is going to cost the taxpayers of the city something. The question is, how much?
Lopez-Soto is clearly no boy scout with a history of narcotic and weapons possession charges, but the police report filed in the case, as well as the video, casts the cops as both dubious in how they portrayed what occurred and Dirty Harry vigilantes adding punishment to the pursuit.
Lawyers on all sides will look for an edge.
And the questions remain: how much will this cost city taxpayers? What will become of the internal police investigation? What will state and federal law enforcement officials do? Why did it take so long for the video to be posted on YouTube? Who posted it?
But what if the mayoral staffer had done nothing?