olice sued over response to Dave Matthews concert disturbance

July 22nd, 2006

072206.jpgHARTFORD (AP) - A federal lawsuit has been filed against Hartford police stemming from their handling of a disturbance outside a 2004 concert by the Dave Matthews Band.

Philip Faiella, 22, and Christopher Faiella, 20, of Durham, claimed they were severely beaten by police on July 17, 2004, after being arrested in a parking lot outside the Meadows Music Theater, now the New England Dodge Music Center.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Hartford, alleges that the officers violated the Faiellas' constitutional rights by falsely arresting them; assaulting them after they were detained; and using excessive force. The brothers are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Eighty-five people were arrested in parking lots outside the theater during the two nights Matthews performed.

The Faiellas claim that they were leaving the theater when a disturbance broke out between two groups of tailgaters in a parking lot. Police began firing rubber bullets and pepper spray, and the brothers ducked under cars to protect themselves, the lawsuit said. They claim that's when officers then attacked and beat them.

Philip Faiella was struck in the head, neck and body, the suit claims, and "rendered unconscious." He was handcuffed from behind and "dragged across the parking lot" to a police van where the officers punched him, swore and "uttered ethnic slurs and spit in the face of the plaintiff," the suit says.

Messages seeking comment were left for Hartford Corporation Counsel John Rose.

"There always seems a small group of individuals who cause problems at these concerts," said Michael Georgetti, the attorney for the Hartford Police Union. "What I understand and heard, this was a near riot condition and the police were responding to a violent situation and used reasonable force."

The Faiellas were initially charged with inciting a riot, breach of peace, interfering with officers and possession of a controlled substance. Those charges were reduced to committing a public disturbance, a noncriminal offense, said attorney A. Paul Spinella.

Police face a separate lawsuit from another man who lost the sight in his right eye after being his by a rubber bullet fired by officers during the same disturbance.

Five years earlier, in August 1999, the city gained national attention after riots started in surrounding parking lots, also during and after a Dave Matthews concert. During that melee, 55 people were arrested when several cars were set on fire.

Tailgating is now prohibited, and police do not allow motorists in the parking lot if they don't have a ticket to the show.

There was no trouble reported after the 2005 Dave Matthews concert. The band is scheduled to play at the Dodge Music Center again July 28 and 29.

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