Six days later, East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo announced that Police Chief Leonard Gallo is retiring as of Feb. 3. The grand jury indictment of the cops included an unindicted “co-conspirator no. 1,” widely assumed to be Gallo.
The arrested cops are Sgt. John Miller and three of his subordinates—David Cari, Dennis Spaulding and Jason Zullo. They were known as “Miller’s boys” and had a reputation over years for detaining people without cause and beating them up after they were handcuffed. They were particularly noted for harassing customers of Ecuadoran-owned businesses on Main Street.
Luis Rodriguez, owner of Los Amigos grocery store, told the Militant that people in the community felt that they were without protection. “If someone came here to rob my store, I would not have anyone to turn to,” he said, “since the police were our enemies.”
“They tied my hands back, pushed me down to the ground, and this was in the police station,” Jeffry Gimenez, a customer at Los Amigos who was arrested in 2008, told TV station WFSB.
The situation began to receive national attention in February 2009 when the cops arrested Father James Manship as he videotaped them harassing residents. Manship’s parish, St. Rose of Lima in nearby New Haven, is attended by many Ecuadoran residents and has served as an organizing center. Shortly after they denounced Manship’s arrest, Rodriguez says, his business and others found anti-immigrant flyers distributed by a group called “North East White Pride” at their doorsteps.
With the help of students from Yale law school, residents filed petitions to the U.S. Department of Justice, which led to the investigation and the arrests.
Residents taking part in a community meeting Jan. 31 called for the replacement of the mayor’s hand-picked board, which is supposedly charged with reforming the police. That meeting also demanded that Gallo not receive severance pay, as he “should not be compensated for his conduct,” according to Ecuadoran activist Dixon Jiménez. The next day the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators called for an investigation of Mayor Maturo.
“We have a great police department,” Maturo told reporters the day the cops were arrested. “They’ll be protecting the taxpayers of East Haven.” In response to a reporter’s question of what he would do to improve relations with the Latino community he said he “might have tacos” for dinner.
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