NEWPORT, VT – A man tased in a Newport City traffic stop is alleging that police overstepped their authority and were unnecessarily rough with him. Fabian Prive said that officers insisted his wife, Laura, was driving while intoxicated while Fabian insisted he was driving.
A heated discussion erupted, said Fabian, during which law enforcement officials pinned him to the ground and, after he was pinned, tased him.
Newport City Police Officer George Butler issued citations against Fabian and Laura Prive on August 14 after a traffic stop that was initiated by US Border Patrol Agent Christopher Chamberlain.
Chamberlain stated in court records that he saw a vehicle, traveling eastbound on Main Street, cut across lanes and ended up on the sidewalk on the wrong side of the street. At that point, he said, a female was driving the vehicle, but after the vehicle stopped, the woman exited the drivers side and got into the passenger side front seat. Officer Butler reported that he saw the vehicle as he drove past and turned around to provide support.
Butler spoke with Fabian Prive who was sitting in the driver's seat. Butler stated that he detected the odor of intoxicants and performed field sobriety tests on Prive, who passed all of the tests and had a breath test of .048% BAC, well under the legal limit.
Butler then interviewed Laura Prive who denied she had been driving. He detected an odor of intoxicants on Laura Prive so he asked that she also perform field sobriety tests. She initially agreed but changed her mind after Fabian intervened, Butler reported. Butler said that, during the conversation, Fabian exited the vehicle screaming and shouting that Laura was not driving.
Chamberlain's report describes Fabian as becoming physically assaultive toward officers Butler and Wells and refused to get back into the vehicle as requested.
Wells tased Fabian in order “to gain control of the situation,” and was placed in custody and cited for disorderly conduct and impeding a police officer, according to the report. Following the incident, Laura refused to perform field sobriety tests because Fabian had been tased.
Laura was initially charged with DUI, which was amended to careless or negligent driving. Approximately two hours after the incident and while still in custody, Laura took a breathalyzer with a .056% BAC.
The Prives agree with certain elements of the police report in that they were approached by officer Butler and answered his questions. Fabian said he was initially cooperative, including taking the field sobriety test. Following that point is where the parties disagree.
“The problem started when officer Wells became aggressive with us. We were fine with Butler,” said Laura. “At that point, I had been asked to step out of the vehicle by Butler. We were talking and he wanted me to perform the tests. I said okay because you're going to arrest me anyway.”
Then Fabian got out of the driver's side, onto the road, and asked the police why they were questioning Laura. Officer Wells told him to get back into the car.
“No, that's my wife, you're harassing her,” Fabian replied. “I told you I was driving the car.”
Wells again asked Fabian to get back into the vehicle. When Fabian did not move, Wells allegedly walked from behind the vehicle where he was standing with Butler, Chamberlain and another patrol officer approached Fabian.
Wells allegedly demanded again that Fabian get back into the car, and then according to both Laura and Fabian, poked him in the chest with his fingers, hard enough to cause Fabian to loose his balance and throw his hands up in the air.
“It happened real fast,” said Fabian. “Next thing I know, Wells jumped me and threw me to the ground. Chamberlain was right behind him. Wells bent my arm behind my back and put a knee into my back. Chamberlain was holding my face into the tar. I lost my glasses falling down.”
“Butler came over and also held me down; I couldn't move,” said Fabian. “It wasn't that I was fighting back, I was pinned right there.” Fabian then recalls someone saying, “Tase him, tase him,” but wasn't sure who it was.
That is when Wells tased him on his left side and placed him in cuffs. Fabian said he was cuffed so tight his wrists swelled up and he had no feeling in his lower arms. He later went to the hospital for x-rays.
Fabian believes the incident occurred in part because he had “had it out” with Wells a month ago involving a dispute with a neighbor in which he was charged with unlawful mischief. “He didn't like me and this is the way to get back at me,” states Fabian.
A fourth officer with the Border Patrol was also at the scene but is not mentioned in the police report. Laura states that after her husband was tased, she went to see him but was prevented from doing so by the agent.
“There was no need to tase me like that,” said Fabian, likening it to a powerful sting. “I wasn't fighting them, I was pinned to the ground by three officers. There wasn't anything I could do.”
The couple is seeking copies of a video tape that they have been told was taken at the scene at the time of the incident, although they are not sure who recorded the incident.