Warning: Distressing Content
A Vermont police officer has been fired after punching a handcuffed woman in the face.
Distressing CCTV footage taken March 14 shows Sergeant Jason Lawton punching Amy Connelly, 35, in a holding cell at St. Albans Police Department.
Connelly, of Highgate, had allegedly been drunk when she ripped a man’s shirt in a bar earlier that evening. She was arrested and taken to the station after refusing to leave the bar, with officers accusing her of disorderly conduct.
Once at the station, officers claim Connelly kept kicking the cell door and refused to stop. Footage shows Sergeant Lawton responding by shoving Connelly against a wall after she wouldn’t sit down.
Connelly could then be seen attempting to kick Sergeant Lawton, who proceeded to punch her in the face. Her hands were cuffed behind her back at the time.
The incident was captured on the officer’s body cam video, as well as on surveillance footage obtained by WCAX News.
Sergeant Lawton has stated he punched Connelly in the face in a bid to gain control over the situation and to put a stop to her aggressive behaviour. However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Vermont have described the incident as being an example of ‘police brutality’.
Jay Diaz, from the ACLU of Vermont, told WCAX News:
He is a bully to a young woman who is distraught, who has handcuffs behind her back, in a three by three holding cell and it’s beyond the pale.
Sergeant Lawton has previously acted questionably in his role as an officer, reportedly lying about a traffic stop in 2013 while working for the Shelburne Police Department. Sergeant Lawton had claimed a driver had gone through a red light, however cruiser cam video showed this was not the case.
The Shelburne Police Department ended up settling a suit over the matter, and Sergeant Lawton went on to move to St. Albans.
In 2018, Sergeant Lawton was one of two St. Albans officers who were involved in the shooting of an armed suspect who had allegedly pointed a gun at them. The suspect – who survived the shooting – claimed he had fired into the air so officers would kill him.
Diaz told WCAX News:
He is clearly an officer who should not have been a police officer because of how he behaves,
It’s readily apparent.
St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor told WCAX News he knew about the Shelburne traffic stop incident but was unaware it had risen to the level of perjury.
Chief Taylor told WCAX News he would never have hired Sergeant Lawton if he had known he was capable of losing his temper in the manner shown in the footage:
I’ve been doing this for 44 years. I don’t approve of anything like that. Nobody gets to engage in behaviour that’s abusive, I don’t want people to think that behaviour reflects the values of this organisation. It does not.
[…] Once you look into it and watch the video, I think the video is self-explanatory, If you shouldn’t be wearing a badge and a gun, part of my job is to make sure you’re not.
Connelly is still facing criminal charges. However, as reported by WCAX News, her legal representative is now trying to get the charges dismissed. They are now considering taking civil action against the police department.
Sergeant Lawton has been fired from his post at St. Albans Police Department following an internal investigation. He is reportedly contesting his dismissal.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.