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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Charges against Tufts Dining workers dropped, independent investigation launched

Cellphone footage obtained by the Daily shows the arrests of Victor White and Alexandros Armand on the night of June 15 and 16.

The Essex County District Attorney’s Office dropped all charges against two Tufts Dining workers and appointed a special prosecutor to investigate claims that the officers used excessive force against the men.

District Attorney (DA) Jonathan Blodgett dropped a number of charges that Lynn police officers filed against Victor White and Alexandros Armand on June 16, both cooks at Carmichael Dining Center.

“After a review of all the facts and circumstances the Office of District Attorney Blodgett has elected in its discretion to discontinue the prosecutions of Victor White, Alexandros Armand and Scott Reed in Lynn District Court,” his office said in a statement.

The charges, which ranged from assault on a police officer to public drinking, stemmed from an incident that took place at White’s residence in Lynn, Mass. on the night of June 15 and early hours of June 16. Whitesays he was beaten by Officer Matthew Coppinger after he was booked at the Lynn Police Department (LPD) headquarters.

Coppinger resigned following an internal investigation launched by the LPD. 

Blodgett also dropped the charges against Scott Reed, a third man involved in the incident, but unaffiliated with the university.

Patrick Gioia, a Boston attorney who represents White and Armand, hailed the DA's decision.

The DA’s job is to do justice,” he said. “And that’s what happened here.

White and Armand are relieved they no longer face charges, Gioia said.

“But at the same time, they never should have been charged in the first place, and they ... really want the officer and officers to be held accountable for what they did,” he added.

The incident began when the LPD officers responded to a noise complaint at White's residence. A cellphone video recorded by Armand and obtained by the Daily shows the officers arguing with the men and later restraining White against his car. The other officers proceeded to arrest Reed and Armand as they followed White, at a distance, to a police car.

In the police reports, the officers noted that they arrested the trio for public drinking. The incident took place on a private property.

That investigation is now in the hands of Daniel Bennett, a special prosecutor appointed by Blodgett. Bennett is the former secretary of the state's Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

His appointment aims to “to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest,” according to the DA’s statement.

Bennett will evaluate whether criminal charges should be brought against any of the police officers involved.

Coppingertold The Boston Globe in June that he resigned under duress and that he will appeal to the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission.

Gioia believes that this situation is representative of a larger issue and that, many times, similar incidents do not come to light.

“It just goes to show you how pervasive the culture of brutality to young Black men is and that the reason that this has come out the way that it has is really the courage that Victor and Alex have shown to speak out against it,he said.

Many Tufts students and community membersturned out to a June 26 march in Lynn in support of White, Armand and Reed.

Various student groups organized letter-writing campaigns to the DA and called the mayor of Lynn demanding the charges be dropped in July.

The executive board of UNITE HERE Local 26, the union that represents White and Armand as Tufts Dining workers, voted unanimously to fully pay the legal defense of the pair, according to Nicki Morris, a spokeswoman for the union.

She expressed that the group's efforts have been successful.

“We are glad the charges against Victor and Alex have been dropped,”Morris said. “Sadly, too many of our Black and brown members face this kind of police brutality and systematic racism on a daily basis.”