WATCH: 2 Fired Agawam Cops Win Back Jobs With Agawam Police Department

Jan 31, 2017

AGAWAM, Massachusetts – Two of three Agawam police officers fired for a use-of-force incident involving a disorderly patron at Six Flags New England have been reinstated with back pay, according to John Connor, the lawyer representing the officers.

Mayor Richard Cohen fired all three veteran officers in October 2016, after an investigation by an outside firm determined they used inappropriate force while arresting a man at the Agawam amusement park in June 2016. The case was forwarded to Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, whose office did not file charges against the officers, and is now under investigation by the FBI.

The Agawam officers returning to work are Anthony Grasso and Edward Connor, both of whom will resume their duties “effective immediately,” attorney Connor, who is not related to Officer Connor, told The Republican on Tuesday.

The case of the third officer, John Moccio, remains before the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission. All three officers appealed their firings to the commission, claiming they followed department policies and procedures but were unjustly terminated. Testimony was expected to conclude Tuesday, but the state panel scheduled another hearing for Feb. 14.

News of Grasso and Connor’s reinstatements came to light during Tuesday’s hearing, the same day news of the FBI’s involvement was revealed by The Republican.

The reinstatements were the result of the City of Agawam rescinding termination notices for both officers, not the result of a decision by the state Civil Service Commission, John Connor said.

“They’re no longer being accused of excessive force,” the lawyer said. “It gives us an indication that the case is going very well.”

Officer Grasso, formerly a sergeant, was demoted and will rejoin the department as a regular officer. Officer Connor was issued a “letter of warning” for failing to secure his weapon in a timely manner.

Attorney Connor said he would continue to fight Grasso’s demotion through the Civil Service Commission. “We are proceeding with our challenge of that,” he said.

Connor also said he was unfazed by the FBI taking up the investigation.

“We welcome any review of the incident,” the lawyer said. “This would be the third law enforcement agency to review the incident, and we are confident the FBI will come to the same conclusion as the district attorney, which is that these officers acted appropriately.”

All three officers would cooperate fully with any inquiry, said Connor, a partner at Springfield law firm Connor, Morneau & Olin.

On Monday, the FBI’s Boston bureau sent a letter to Agawam Police Chief Eric Gillis, telling him about the federal investigation and requesting all materials related to the case including paper and electronic documents. Video footage of officers restraining 27-year-old David Desjardins, the man at the center of the disputed case, is among a key piece of evidence federal investigators will review in their probe.

“The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the Boston Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, at the request of the US Department of Justice, has initiated a Preliminary Civil Rights of Color of Law investigation into allegations of excessive use of force, police misconduct, and obstruction of justice allegations against officers of the Agawam Police Department,” Harold H. Shaw, the agent in charge of the Boston bureau, said in the letter, copies of which were sent to Cohen and Gulluni.

Desjardins struggled with officers at the amusement park and at police headquarters, where officers used appropriate force to subdue him, according to attorney Connor. The video shows Desjardins tussling with officers, one of whom strikes him multiple times with a baton.

Gillis, Cohen and the independent inquiry concluded the officers used excessive force to control Desjardins, prompting Cohen to fire the officers.