Town, police officers cleared in excessive force lawsuit

The Town of Stratford and police involved in breaking up a melee at the Harborside Bar were cleared by a federal jury Tuesday, Dec. 4, of excessive force and civil rights violations.

 

Police from Stratford and Milford and State Police performed crowd control as about 1,000 people left the club and surrounding neighborhood at about 2 a.m. Sept. 22, 2007.

The federal lawsuit involved three arrests made during a fight.

The three plaintiffs, Narrell Stallworth, Calvin Smalls and Larisse King, were arrested in the adjacent parking lot of Danny’s Drive-In. Stallworth sued Stratford police Officer John Therina, the town of Stratford and Connecticut State Trooper Paul Comensanas.

The other plaintiffs sued Stratford Officers Therina, Sgt. Shawn Martinez, Larry Overby, and Sgt. Anthony Rhew and State Trooper Comensanas. Comensanas was a canine handler.

The plaintiffs claimed that Therina and Comensanas utilized excessive force in making their arrests.

The case against Rhew was withdrawn prior to trial.

During the trial, the plaintiffs withdrew all claims against Overby and Martinez.

The jury Tuesday ruled in favor of Therina, Comensanas and the town of Stratford. U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Martinez presided over the trial.

The Stratford officers were represented at trial by former Stratford Town Attorney Richard J. Buturla and Warren L. Holcomb, both of the law firm of Berchem, Moses & Devlin PC of Milford.

“We are pleased that the jury verdict vindicated these fine officers. They acted in the best traditions of their departments,” Buturla said.

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