Hearing set in Chesco police-abuse complaint

Posted: September 24, 2011

On Aug. 19, 2009, a Chester County man accused a state trooper of police brutality after a drug raid - an allegation the man wants resolved after more than two years of investigations.

Zachary W. Bare, 22, of Exton, filed a complaint on Nov. 23, 2009, with the District Attorney's Office accusing Trooper Kelly Cruz, a narcotics investigator, of using his foot to stomp Bare's head as he was handcuffed on the floor of his house.

In a petition filed Wednesday, Bare's attorney, Joseph P. Green Jr., argues that the delays in the case are subverting justice. A hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 18 before Chester County President Judge James P. MacElree 2d.

Cruz's attorney, Christian J. Hoey, said he and his client would also like a decision: one that dismisses the complaint.

"We don't believe he did anything wrong," Hoey said, adding that the complex case warrants a thorough review. "It's going to take time."

The petition states that the state police completed an investigation that included multiple interviews with people supporting Bare's allegations. The material was turned over to the Attorney General's Office on May 28, 2010. It calls the failure to make a decision "a gross abuse of discretion."

Despite repeated attempts, Green said he has been unable to obtain information on whether Bare's complaint was sustained or dismissed.

Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office, said releasing such information is prohibited: "There's always a desire to conclude an investigation in as timely as manner as possible."

The alleged assault broke Bare's nose and pushed four teeth into his gums, and was witnessed by another police officer as Bare lay facedown on a tile floor in handcuffs, according to court records.

Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll, citing a social relationship with Cruz, turned the complaint over to the Attorney General's Office. Cruz, a veteran of the vice-narcotics unit, was relegated to restricted desk duty by the state police, where he remains.

According to West Whiteland police reports, officers were executing a search warrant at a suspected methamphetamine lab in the 500 block of East Swedesford Road in Exton on Aug. 19, 2009. Officers on the lookout for people seen fleeing the lab saw Bare as he entered his house and thought he matched a description of someone being sought.

Bare was never charged in connection with the raid.

In police reports, Cruz disputes accounts that he "stomped" on Bare's head and says he did not realize Bare was handcuffed because he was "fixated" by Bare's rage. He said he reacted to Bare's oral threats.

"I saw an immediate danger and I reacted to it. . . . The end result was that he unfortunately sustained injury," Cruz said in the report.

Contact staff writer Kathleen Brady Shea at 610-696-3815, kbrady@phillynews.com, or @brandywinebits on Twitter. Read her blog, "Chester County Inbox," at www.philly.com/chescoinbox.

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