A Boston police officer is suing the department over its handing of a nearly 15-year-old shooting, in which one off-duty police officer accidentally injured another.
The officer, Detective Alvin Holder, claimed in a lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court this week that the investigation unjustly branded him a liar, which he says still hinders his ability to do his job.
Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a department spokesman, declined to comment on the pending litigation. The department’s lawyers have not responded to the allegations in court.
Holder, who has been a Boston police officer since 1998, was in a car with two other off-duty officers and an off-duty firefighter on a residential street in Hyde Park on Oct. 19, 2005.
One of the officers — identified in the complaint as Frank Lee — accidentally fired a weapon, hitting Officer Eric Mencey’s shoulder. Holder drove them to Faulkner Hospital so Mencey could be treated, and told a police lieutenant that an officer had been shot, according to his complaint. Mencey survived the shooting and is still a Boston police officer, records show.
That day, a Boston police superintendent questioned Holder about what happened. Holder said he told the superintendent who was in the car, that he was in the driver’s seat, that Lee was holding the gun, and that the bullet’s trajectory went from the back seat to the front, according to the complaint.
But, following the advice of his union representative and a Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association lawyer, Holder did not specifically tell the superintendent that Lee shot Mencey, according to court records.
“He gave them sufficient information to deduce who the players were and just followed his union rep’s instruction,” said Julie Halaby, Holder’s attorney. “It was improper to take this negative action against him.”
A lieutenant did ask Holder if the shooter was “one of us,” meaning another police officer. Holder said yes, according to the complaint. Still, Halaby wrote, the other officers in the car were not questioned in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
In 2008, the department brought a formal complaint against Holder claiming he lied to investigators during a follow-up interview in January of 2006, telling them he had given the superintendent the shooter’s identity the night of the incident. Holder said he never lied — he told them he had followed the union’s advice and not revealed the shooter’s name.
Holder was suspended without pay for 45 days in 2009. An arbitrator upheld the suspension in 2013. Department officials added a determination to Holder’s file, saying he had been found “untruthful.”
That determination continues to follow Holder, he alleged in the lawsuit.
“[Holder] has been hyper-scrutinized by BPD personnel because they perceive him as dishonest,” his lawyer wrote in the complaint. “Having the untruthfulness determination in his file means [Holder] is permanently labeled as someone who cannot be trusted to tell the truth.”
That means that whenever Holder is called to testify in court, defense attorneys can bring up the finding as a reason jurors should not trust him, Holder’s attorney wrote.
“This has really developed into something that should have been corrected way back when. He should never have been forced to go through all these years of turmoil,” Halaby said.
Holder is asking the department to expunge his record, release documents about the internal investigation into the shooting and Holder’s conduct, and pay him unspecified amounts in back pay and damages.
“If the department wants to do right by one of its most dedicated officers then it can step back, look at the facts . . . and do the right thing,” Halaby said.
Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 617-929-2043.