Two Connecticut officers have reportedly taken their own lives while under investigation for a 2017 incident in which they were among a large group of officers suspected of violations including falsifying information in written reports.
The Connecticut Post reported that 17 surviving officers are facing discipline—with nine in danger of being fired—after the Bridgeport Office of Internal Affairs scrutinized law enforcement’s actions during and after shutting down a Halloween party in response to a noise complaint.
One of the officers under investigation, Sgt. Mark Belinkie, was found dead in his home Sunday from an apparent suicide.
Belinkie—a 19-year-veteran of Bridgeport police—was the second officer involved in the probe who appears to have taken his own life. In December 2017, Thomas Lattanzio reportedly killed himself in Seaside Park while on administrative leave.
“(Belinkie) told me he was concerned about Colorado (Avenue), about going before the Police Commission; it takes its toll on police officers, having this hang over their heads for so long,” Police Chief Armando Perez said of the late sergeant.
We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Sergeant Mark Belinkie. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family, and our entire family of brothers and sisters of the Bridgeport Police Department.
Officials concluded their investigation last fall and published their findings in a 400-page report, which the CT Post said hasn’t been released to the public.
According to a police report, two officers, identified as “Officer N. McLaughlin” and “Officer B. Hernandez,” responded to reports of excessive noise at a Colorado Avenue residence on October 21, 2017. There, Carmelo Mendez and his sister, Wanda Mendez, were reportedly hosting a party in their backyard.
Police alleged multiple partygoers told officers that they weren’t being loud and that the police should focus a nearby home that is habitually noisy into the late hours. The report also claimed the homeowner, Fernando Morales, put his finger in Hernandez’s face, resulting in “Officer M. Mazzaco” arriving at the scene and arresting Morales as he resisted and hurled profanities.
Authorities wrote that Mazzaco called for backup before 45 officers arrived. In one of two videos Carmelo provided to the CT Post, officers are seen forcing him to the ground. The second video shows officers holding his mother by the arms and an officer telling him he can record moments before another officer approaches him.
Carmelo, a former bail bondsman, can be heard accusing the second officer of hitting him before someone says, “He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun.” Carmelo told the newspaper that he’s a legal gun owner and carries his gun in a holster on his hip.
“I was already handcuffed, and they were already hitting me when they saw I had a gun and continued hitting and kicking me after they saw it,” he said.
The CT Post noted that the two videos—one shot by a camera located in the backyard and the other captured by Carmelo’s cellphone—haven’t been fully authenticated.
Sources told the outlet that Internal Affairs found nine officers had lied on their sworn police reports. The chief of police confirmed that the police commission is investigating the matter and that the 17 officers are on active duty.
Internal Affairs is currently tasked with determining which, if any, officers violated departmental policy before holding a state disciplinary hearing.
[Featured image: Pixabay]