Darien coach wants Feds to take up police brutality claim
Updated 10:27 pm, Tuesday, January 14, 2014
DARIEN -- The lawyer representing Christian Garnett, the Darien High School coach who was arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated, among others, in Norwalk in October, is seeking the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's involvement in the investigation of alleged police brutality.
Mark Sherman, Garnett's lawyer, said he has been in touch with both agencies and that the complaint is "definitely" going to happen.
Garnett, 32, of Stamford, was arrested at 12:41 a.m. Oct. 31 after police saw him allegedly speeding on three tires and one rim on Connecticut Avenue.
Police said Garnett, who is the assistant football and junior varsity lacrosse coach at Darien High, failed multiple field sobriety tests and then "violently struggled with the officers attempting to handcuff him."
He also was charged with interfering with a police officer, assault on a police officer, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. He is also accused of kicking an officer who was trying to arrest him. According to the report, another officer punched Garnett in the face and used a stun gun to subdue him.
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Police said he was still belligerent when taken to Norwalk Hospital and was handcuffed to a bed.
According to court records, police also found two grinders, one pipe, two syringes and a container with marijuana residue in Garnett's vehicle.
Sherman claims he secured video footage -- something he said police did not do -- from Hancock Pharmacy at 114 Connecticut Ave., across the street from where the arrest took place. He said he turned the footage over to police on Jan. 14 and that the video footage will be "helpful" for Garnett's case.
Sherman claims the video shows an officer being pulled off Garnett while several officers restrain him.
"We're very concerned that the attack on Christian coupled with the department's failure to retrieve that video raises concerns that there is a blue wall of silence in this case that we are having trouble penetrating," Sherman said outside the courtroom Tuesday.
Additionally, Sherman filed a complaint against the Norwalk police to investigate the arrest.
"We went into Norwalk police two days after his arrest and asked for a fair and thorough investigation," Sherman said. "Conveniently, the Norwalk police did not find this video; we did. It is outrageous that the defense team had to find a video of this arrest."
Norwalk Police Chief Tom Kulhawik said the investigation is pending.
Prior to Garnett's arrest, Officer Paul Wargo, one of the arresting officers, had been the subject of an investigation in October 2013 for allegedly striking a man with a flashlight whom he was attempting to detain. The investigation found that there were no policy violations, Kulhawik said.
Garnett said he suffered a stage-three concussion from the assault as well as a lower-orbital blowout fracture under his left eye, which he said required surgery and the insertion of a titanium plate to keep his eye from sinking in the socket, which he said can happen as a result of that sort of fracture.
"The pictures you saw do not speak to the extent of my injuries," Garnett said in reference to his mug shot, which shows his right eye swollen shut.
Darien Public Schools placed Garnett on administrative leave Nov. 1.
"The Darien Public Schools take seriously the duty of coaches and other adults to serve as role models and to comply with the laws," then-acting Superintendent of Schools Tim Canty said in his message to the community.
Garnett said he would like to get back to coaching "in theory" but that it's not a priority.
"I'm just trying to get my life back together," Garnett said.
The Norwalk police investigation is due within six to eight weeks. Kulhawik said there was a delay in the investigation while waiting for Garnett to go to the police station to be interviewed. Sherman said scheduling issues were the cause of the delay. The lead investigator asked and received a 60-day extension for the investigation, according to Kulhawik.
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