State Police Sued Over Tackling Of Man With Down Syndrome
DANVERS, Mass. — Before January, his family says, Brian Corbett had as full a life as anyone, despite the limitations imposed on him by Down syndrome.
The 29-year-old took part in a day program at Northeast Arc, held a part-time job at the Salem Registry of Deeds, accompanied his father on real estate business, and was the No. 1 fan at his nieces’ and nephew’s sporting events.
“As long as I’ve known him he’s been a very outgoing person, a very talkative, likeable kid,” said family attorney James Cote.
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But after what happened on Jan. 12, “he’s become a shell of himself,” said Cote.
Corbett was riding with his father, real estate broker Dan Corbett, on Route 1 in Peabody when he became upset.
His father pulled to the side of the road, in Peabody, and tried to calm his son. He called his wife, who was on her way.
But a state trooper who spotted the car by the side of the road got there first.
Now, the Corbetts have filed a lawsuit against the Massachusetts State Police, alleging that the trooper and four others who arrived as backup that day overreacted and intentionally and/or negligently inflicted emotional distress on the young Danvers man, who has been left traumatized.
While Dan Corbett was able to convince the first trooper not to use a Taser on Brian, who has a heart condition, the four other troopers called as backup then decided to take Brian to the ground and put him into handcuffs, the lawsuit alleges.
Brian, who is 4-foot-11 and weighs 130 to 140 pounds, was slammed to the ground, suffering bruises to his legs and abrasions to his knees and a shoulder. As Cheryl arrived at the scene, troopers told her that her son was going to be arrested on a charge of assaulting his father.
He was taken to Salem Hospital.
But the psychological injuries were far worse, the family believes.
Since then, Brian no longer wants to go out, Cote said. Getting him to a two-hour day program is a struggle. He is seeing a therapist but, Cote said, “it’s not going well.”
He no longer wants to go with his parents to see his nieces’ and nephew’s sporting events.
He’s also stopped eating.
“It’s just been kind of a nightmare for them,” Cote said.
“I don’t think he understands what happened,” said Cote, a Danvers attorney who spoke on behalf of the family recently. “He knows what happened but doesn’t understand why.”
His parents and sisters are having a tough time as well, Cote said. Brian used to love seeing his nieces play soccer and his nephew play hockey. “He was their biggest supporter. He loved it. His parents loved taking him with them. Now he won’t go.”
“He’s not the same person he was,” Cote said. “He was the happiest kid when he was younger. He’s not a happy kid anymore. He’s a nervous child who doesn’t want to leave the house.”
South Essex Register of Deeds John O’Brien hired Brian several years ago through Northeast Arc to work one day a week at the Registry of Deeds.
“He’s a good kid,” O’Brien said. Brian would help around the office, doing things like stuffing envelopes. Brian was one of two Northeast Arc clients who had jobs at the Registry of Deeds before the pandemic.
“He was always happy and friendly,” said O’Brien. “Just a nice kid.” He took a great deal of pride in having a job, O’Brien recalled, saying Brian would always tell people, “I work for the Registry of Deeds.” O’Brien said he hopes Brian will return to his job there at some point.
Cote said he has sent letters to both the state police and the state’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, but has received no response.
“There’s been zero response,” he said. “This is what prompted us to file the lawsuit. We’re left with no other option.”
Messages and emails to the state police last week did not receive a response.
“We’ve got a kid with Down syndrome who was abused for no reason,” said Cote. “The trooper overreacted. Four more troopers showed up. He’s a kid. He weighed 140 pounds. You know he has Down’s. It’s visible. You can’t not know that. We just want the state police to come forward and talk to us. It’s been months.”
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