http://www.vnews.com/06042010/6673969.htm Published 6/4/2010 ‘Temporary Custody' By Jim Kenyon Valley News Columnist Hartford Police officials issued a press release on Tuesday announcing they had asked Vermont State Police to investigate whether their response to a 911 call of a “burglary in progress” last Saturday afternoon in Wilder was appropriate. According to the one-paragraph statement, Hartford police found an “unknown male subject on the third floor” of a Stony Creek townhome who was taken into “temporary custody” before paramedics treated him for a known medical condition. End of story? Far from it. The police department's press release lacked critical details about what happened at Stony Creek last Saturday afternoon, facts on which I hope the state police investigation will shed light. Meanwhile, I'll share what I have found. The unknown male subject found in the home? He was actually the 34-year-old African-American who owns the home and has lived there for four years. And the part about taking him into temporary custody? Hartford police neglected to say that in the process he was: blasted with pepper spray; struck with a nightstick; handcuffed, wrapped in a blanket and hauled -- naked -- out of his home, according to a neighbor and what the man says police later told him. When the neighbor tried to tell cops that the handcuffed man on the pavement was the homeowner -- not a burglar — he said he was threatened with arrest for interfering in police business. The victim -- I don't know how else to describe someone who has undergone such an ordeal -- is Wayne Burwell, a 1998 Dartmouth graduate and standout track athlete. He's a personal trainer who works with many high school and college athletes. A framed photo of one of his clients is displayed in the office of his small gym. The picture shows Ben Lovejoy, a former Dartmouth hockey player, hoisting the Stanley Cup trophy while playing for the 2009 NHL champion Pittsburgh Penguins. “Wayne, thanks for everything,” wrote Lovejoy. (Full disclosure: I've known Burwell for a few years. My son and daughter are among the college and high school athletes who train with him in the summer.) You'd never know it by looking at his chiseled 5-foot-11, 200-pound frame, but Burwell has been dealing with a significant health problem for the last year. His body at times doesn't produce enough blood glucose, a deficiency that can cause him to lose consciousness. Although diabetes has been ruled out, doctors at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center have yet to pinpoint the problem, Burwell said. Most of the time, he's able to manage the illness with a proper diet and strict meal schedule. But sometimes that's not even enough. Last Friday night was one of those times. Before going to bed, he ate a late meal, which he routinely does to keep his blood glucose level from dropping dangerously low while he's asleep. Burwell, who was home alone, doesn't remember much of what happened after he fell asleep after midnight. He didn't hear the knock on the door Saturday afternoon from the housekeeper who comes by to clean once a week. After entering Burwell's three-story home (the front door was unlocked), the cleaning service worker called 911 to report that a burglary appeared to be in progress and the home appeared ransacked, said Police Chief Glenn Cutting. What made her think that? Police aren't saying. (The Valley News has requested a recording of the 911 call, along with other public records pertaining to what occurred Saturday afternoon, but Deputy Chief Leonard Roberts told staff writer Mark Davis on Wednesday that no records would be released now because of the state police investigation.) I called the owner of the cleaning service. She wouldn't talk about what had happened, but said that Hartford police had contacted her this week. Bob and Betsy McKaig, who live in the townhome next door to Burwell's, were willing to talk with me, however. Bob said that he happened to look outside on Saturday afternoon when two women (whom he recognized from the cleaning service) were in the parking lot talking on a cell phone. A few minutes later, around 3:30 p.m., police arrived. The sight of three police cruisers pulling into the parking lot aroused McKaig's professional curiosity. McKaig, 71, spent 30 years as a police officer, heading the narcotics investigation division of the Montclair, N.J., police department before retiring. The McKaigs and Burwell have been neighbors for four years. “He's a fine gentleman, very polite,” said McKaig. So polite, in fact, that he addresses McKaig's wife as “Miss Betsy.” After going outside, McKaig spotted a police officer standing on the steps leading into Burwell's townhome. The officer wasn't hard to miss -- he held a high-powered rifle. “I know the man who lives there,” McKaig recalled telling him. “He's a black man with a medical problem who was recently taken by ambulance to the hospital.” Two officers -- one female -- apparently were already inside Burwell's home. Upon arrival, Cutting said, officers discovered the man inside was unresponsive, and found smoke in the home emanating from a lamp that had been knocked over. If the officers had stopped on the second floor to look at the pictures of Burwell and his elementary-school aged daughter displayed under the dining room table's glass top, they probably would have had pretty good confirmation that their burglary suspect was in fact the townhome's resident. While talking with the officer stationed at Burwell's front door, McKaig said he heard a “hell of a commotion” from inside. Minutes later, police brought Burwell outside, McKaig told me, “They dragged the poor guy down the stairs.” One of the officers carried a nightstick in his hand. Burwell was wrapped in a blanket. (He would later learn from police that the two officers found him sitting naked on the toilet in the bathroom of his home's third-floor master bedroom. Because his low blood glucose had put him in a zombie-like state, he doesn't remember how he got into the bathroom or much of his interaction with police.) Police set Burwell on the ground outside his home, wrapped in a blanket and still in handcuffs. “His eyes were closed; he couldn't see,” said McKaig, who after 30 years as a cop can recognize when someone is suffering from the effects of pepper spray. He also reported seeing the two officers who came out of the home having their eyes washed out with water from a hose. “We were trying to get them to understand that Wayne has a medical condition, but they didn't listen to us,” said Betsy McKaig, who had joined her husband outside to observe the commotion. Bob McKaig said he tried telling the female officer that he was a former cop who could vouch that the man in custody was the homeowner. “Sometimes (other cops) will extend the courtesy of listening to you when you tell them that you're a retired officer. Not this one. She jumped all over me and said I was interfering with police work. “If you don't leave, ‘I'll lock you up right now,' ” he recalled the officer saying. Everyone understands that cops have dangerous jobs and always a need to be careful in the line of duty, McKaig said. “But you also have to take your time to assess the situation. They didn't do that. “Think about it, realistically,” he went on. “A naked burglar?” Sitting on the ground, Burwell remembers an officer asking him his name and whether he lived there. After answering, he had a question for the cop: “Can you please take the handcuffs off?” They were cutting into his wrists. The officer refused. “We need to ask you a few more questions.” (At DHMC, two stitches were needed in his left wrist to close a cut made by the cuffs.) Roughly 10 minutes after police arrived, paramedics and firefighters pulled into the Stony Creek parking lot. McKaig surmised that paramedics recognized Burwell from an earlier emergency call to his townhome. “They must have figured out who he was.” Paramedics began treating him for his low blood glucose. He was placed on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance. A woman from the cleaning service retrieved clothes from his home, so he would have something to wear when it came time to leave the hospital. Burwell was treated and released from DHMC about five hours later. He was not charged with any crime. After learning of this incident Sunday, I visited Burwell at his gym on Monday morning. His wrists were swollen. His arms and legs were sore, he said. His eyes still burned from being hit with pepper spray. My next stop was the Hartford police station. I had hoped to pick up a copy of the police incident report, but was told that I would have to put my request in writing and the department's administration would have to approve the release of any information. I left my business card and cell phone number, but did not hear back. Later in the day, Burwell called me at home. He said that Hartford police wanted to come by to talk with him about what had happened. He didn't feel comfortable talking with them alone. “The last time police came to my house, it didn't work out so well for me.” I went to his home, and McKaig also came by. At 7 p.m. -- on Memorial Day -- Cutting and Roberts arrived in an unmarked black cruiser. Cutting said they were there for “fact finding,” but he wouldn't talk with Burwell while I was there. I left, while McKaig stayed. During their hour-long visit, neither Cutting nor Roberts offered him an apology, Burwell said. The chief told Burwell that his officers had received “bad information,” and just did “what they had to do.” The other day I went back to talk with Burwell again. He's a black man living in a part of the country where 97 percent of the people are white. Nearly every police officer in the Upper Valley is white, as well. I had one more question: Do you think police would have treated you the same way if you were white? He didn't answer right away. “I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, but it doesn't seem like they tried very hard. The most upsetting thing is they didn't choose to listen. They didn’t seem to care.” ----- TL;DR - Cops a find an unresponsive naked black man in a house after getting a burglary call by a house cleaner who thought the house looked ransacked (or was just messy, hence calling a house keeper). They blasted him with pepper spray; struck him with a nightstick; handcuffed, wrapped him in a blanket and hauled him out of his home. When his neighbor (retired 30 year veteran police officer) tried to tell cops that the handcuffed man on the pavement was the homeowner, not a burglar, he said he was threatened with arrest for interfering in police business. The victim homeowner has a medical condition that results in low blood glucose but isn't diabetes, and was suffering from a low blood sugar induced state. The victim required 2 stitches to close the cut on his wrist that the overly tight handcuffs left him with. When paramedics arrived, they recognized him from a previous call for the low blood sugar induced state and treated him. He was let go afterwards. The police didn't apologize after coming back for a fact finding interview. ----- This is just messed up. Why would an unresponsive naked man, who the neighbor claimed was the homeowner, be suspected of being a burglar? Why did they need to attack him?