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Lowell officers faulted in death of woman in custody

No help called for 31-year-old suffering alcohol poisoning

An internal Lowell police investigation has determined that officers and civilian detention attendants neglected duties, disobeyed regulations, and “fail[ed] to summons medical help when it was obviously required” in the January 2013 death of a 31-year-old woman being held in custody.

Lowell Police Superintendent William Taylor has recommended seven department employees for discipline by the city manager. He met Tuesday with the mother of the woman who died, Alyssa Brame, and her lawyer to share the police report and apologize for her daughter’s death by alcohol poisoning.

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“I’m certainly very disappointed in the care that Alyssa received while she was in custody,” Taylor said by phone after the meeting. “I believe that the individuals involved in this case acted in . . . deliberate indifference.”

Brame, who was homeless, had been arrested for allegedly soliciting prostitution about 1½ hours before being found unresponsive in a cell, police said. She appeared to have been drinking at the time of her arrest, according to police, but was initially conscious and able to speak, before her condition quickly declined.

Brame’s mother, Alice Swiridowsky-Muckle of Connecticut, expressed surprise that the report indicated her daughter did not receive a proper medical assessment.

“It’s shocking that there could be so many officers . . . on one night shift that . . . could not make the right decisions,” she said. “That so many officers spent time with my daughter and not one of them could follow the protocol.”

Swiridowsky-Muckle, 58, said if police had followed their own policies, her daughter would probably be alive. She said she hopes “that nobody else’s loved one dies because policies were not followed because of attitude or indifference.”

‘I believe that the individuals involv-ed in this case act-ed in . . . deliberate indifference.’

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Swiridowsky-Muckle’s lawyer, Boston civil rights attorney Howard Friedman, said it was unusual for a top law enforcement official to take responsibility and apologize for such a death, as Taylor did.

The 44-page report was written by Captain Kevin Staveley and Lieutenants Barry Golner and James Hodgdon, and provided to the Globe by police.

The report said that Lieutenant Thomas Siopes, the officer in charge on Jan. 12, 2013, when Brame died, misled investigators when he said that that night’s episode was not the first time she was brought into custody in such a seriously inebriated state.

Video of prior arrivals, according to the report, shows Brame able to walk and interact with police.

Friedman said the “most shocking” element of the report was Siopes’s statement that, knowing what he has learned since Brame’s death, he still would not reconsider his decision not to call an ambulance.

Friedman also scoffed at Siopes’s assertion that he was unaware it was against department policy to place an unconscious person in a cell.

The report cited Siopes for failing to know and follow booking procedures, failing to call for medical help, leaving his post without proper relief, and violating department regulations.

Additionally, Sergeants James Fay, Michael Giuffrida, and Francis Nobrega; Lieutenant Michael Kilmartin; and Officer William Florence were cited for failing to call for medical help and neglect of duty. Fay, Giuffrida, and Florence were also cited for violating department regulations.

Lead detention attendant Kevin Lombard, a civilian, was cited for neglect of duty, violating department regulations, and “failing to give suitable attention to the performance of his duties, essentially loafing when he could have been conducting a timely cell check.”

Detention attendant Shawn Tetreault was cited for violating department regulations.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Florence and Tetreault declined to comment. Siopes, Fay, Giuffrida, Nobrega, Kilmartin, and Lombard could not be reached.

Taylor said several of the officers are represented by Lowell lawyer Gary G. Nolan, who could not be reached.

City Manager Bernard F. Lynch also did not return a message left at his office Tuesday, but in an interview Friday he said he will chair a series of closed-door hearings in coming weeks, reviewing the actions of each employee cited in the report.

Lynch and Taylor both said disciplinary action could include firings.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan declared Brame’s death accidental in a report last summer and said police conduct did not “rise to the level of wanton and reckless conduct that would support or warrant criminal charges.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
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