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Leominster officer fired over Carl Crawford slur

The mayor of Leominster fired a police officer on Thursday who allegedly directed a racial epithet at Red Sox player Carl Crawford during a minor league game in New Hampshire earlier this month.

In a letter to the officer, John A. Perreault, Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella, said he believed Perreault’s comment to Crawford and other incidents violated police department rules and reflected poorly on the department.

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“Your actions are so egregious that severe discipline is warranted,” Mazzarella wrote. “There is simply no place for your behavior in the workplace and there is no place for someone who exhibits such objectionable behavior in the Leominster Police Department, or any City Department, for that matter.”

The termination took effect immediately, although Perreault’s lawyer said his client plans to appeal the decision.

The firing followed a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday during which Police Chief Robert Healey alleged that, in addition to yelling the epithet “Monday” at Crawford, Perreault had used racial epithets or made racist remarks at other times.

“After reviewing the testimony from the Chief and reviewing the documents submitted . . . I have determined that the charges advanced by Chief Healey have been substantiated,” Mazzarella wrote.

Joseph G. Sandulli, Perreault’s attorney, said Perreault was disappointed by the mayor’s decision.

“He is not a racist,” Sandulli said. “He meant that comment as a criticism of Carl Crawford’s play and not his race, and that’s why he chose to go through the process yesterday and wants to pursue the appeal.”

In a brief interview with the Globe, Mazzarella said he had hoped to hear Perreault share his side of the story during Wednesday’s hearing. Perreault chose not to speak leaving his defense to his attorney.

Healey, who presented the allegations of misconduct to the mayor, recommended that Perreault be fired, and Mazzarella ultimately agreed.

“When you’re a police officer, you’re held to a different standard,” Mazzarella said Thursday. “You represent the community on and off duty.”

The Leominster police had launched a 10-day investigation after receiving an anonymous tip that one of its officers had directed a racial epithet at Crawford during a July 5 minor league baseball game in Manchester. Crawford was on a rehabilitation assignment at the time with the AA Portland Sea Dogs, who were playing against the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

The investigation concluded that Perreault had called Crawford a “Monday,” a word that can be used as either a general insult or a racial slur.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Healey said he believed Perreault used the word as a racial slur. The chief also detailed other allegations of racially insensitive comments, including an incident in which Perreault allegedly told a black man wearing a Guinness shirt, “I didn’t know they serve Guinness in Africa.”

Sandulli said both the “Monday” and “Guinness” comments were misunderstandings, and that other witnesses to the comments did not interpret them as racist.

The attorney also questioned the credibility of an account of Perrault uttering a racial epithet in a Leominster bar.

Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.

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