DEDHAM — The dispute over the Black Lives Matter movement occurred during a sleepover in Westwood for a group of teenage boys. A white Milton police officer confronted her son’s 14-year-old house guest, who is Black, with clenched fists and asked whether he supports Black Lives Matter, a police sergeant testified Tuesday.
But Patricia Lio, 52, the Milton officer who faces possible criminal prosecution over the off-duty incident at her home, said in court that anti-police sentiments have made her fear for her life and race didn’t factor into the exchange she had with her son’s friend.
“This has never been about race. I don’t see people through race,” Lio said in her first public remarks about the confrontation on Sept. 19 at her home in Westwood.
Lio delivered the testimony during a show-cause hearing in Dedham District Court to decide whether she should face criminal charges. Westwood police have asked that Lio be prosecuted on charges of assault to intimidate and assault and battery on a household member.
Westwood police contend the 14-year-old Black youth is the victim of the assault to intimidate charge, which state law defines as a crime perpetrated against a person on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender. Police allege Lio’s husband, Anthony, was the victim of the domestic assault, though he testified his wife didn’t attack him.
After hearing police testimony, Assistant Clerk Magistrate Beth Cook said she believed there was probable cause to charge Lio, though she let the hearing continue and heard testimony from three defense witnesses, including the accused officer. Lio testified last, and when she finished, Cook said she would reach a decision by Friday.
Clerk magistrate hearings are typically held behind closed doors, but the Globe filed an appeal last October and the hearing was made public.
During her testimony, Lio, who denied the allegations, said she was deeply affected by what she said was the “nonstop and continuous maiming, murdering police officers” last summer.
“It was being cheered upon. It was being OK. And I believed every day of my life as a person, as a mother, and as a police officer thirdly, that my life mattered in every way as did my co-workers’,” she said.
In an interview, Lio’s lawyer, Douglas I. Louison, said his client shouldn’t face criminal charges.
“The evidence presented is just a microcosm of the tensions and the debate that’s going on about police and their stresses and the Black Lives Matter movement. It was about the politics. It was not about race,” he said.
In a statement released after the hearing, a lawyer for the 14-year-old said he was subjected to “an unprovoked racist rant” by Lio because “she believed that the Black teen’s support for Black Lives Matter threatened the safety of any police officer at home or on the job.” The teen attended the hearing with a relative, but didn’t testify. His family asked he not be named because he is a minor.
“This officer’s job is to protect and serve the citizens of the Commonwealth and she should suffer the consequences, whatever they may be, for her behavior vilifying innocent teenagers,” said his lawyer, Alfred A. Gray Jr.
Investigators allege the incident unfolded during a sleepover that Lio’s younger son hosted for the 14-year-old and another teenager, who is Hispanic.
Earlier in the day, Lio said her older son showed her a social media post by the 14-year-old that referred to the Black Lives Matter movement’s support for cutting police budgets, according to testimony.
She said her younger son and his two sleepover guests were at Legacy Place in Dedham when she saw the post. Gray said the post, which wasn’t written by his client, didn’t advocate for violence.
The confrontation occurred later in the day while the friends were watching a Celtics game at Lio’s home, and heard Lio, who was in another part of the house, criticize the Black Lives Matter movement using expletives and calling it “a phony,” police said.
Lio’s sons told the guests that their mother “is scared for her life because of Black Lives Matter,” according to interviews conducted by Westwood police.
Lio then went into the room where the teenagers were gathered and asked the Hispanic teen about his views of Black Lives Matter and whether his father, a Boston police officer, supports defunding police departments, said Westwood police Sergeant Chris Aylward.
When Lio’s husband tried escort her away from the boys, he was punched in the face and began to bleed, police said. He testified his wife didn’t strike him, and the blood came from a cut to his nose that he sustained while doing construction work at his job.
Lio then confronted the 14-year-old, clenching her fists, getting in his face, and using expletives to discuss the Black Lives Matters movement, Aylward said. The teen asked Lio if she planned to hit him, Aylward said, and she said no.
“If you support Black Lives Matter, get the (expletive) out of my house,” Lio told the 14-year-old, according to Aylward. Anthony Lio then got into a car with his younger son, and his two friends, to drive them to the 14-year-old’s home in Randolph. As the vehicle was trying to exit, Patricia Lio called the Hispanic youth an immigrant, Aylward said, banged on the windows, and tried to open the doors, but they were locked.
Lio’s younger son, who is 15, testified that his mother was trying to get him to exit the vehicle, but he didn’t comply.
Lio said she didn’t clench her fists, seek to intimidate the 14-year-old, or use racial terms with him.
“I was trying to convey my frustration that it’s not OK to cheer on the killing of cops,” Lio said. “His friend’s mom is a police officer. I need to come home at night. It’s hurtful.”
Lio has been on paid administrative leave since October, Milton police said, and an internal affairs investigation into her remains pending. The Department of Children and Families said Tuesday it investigated the incident, but was barred by law from releasing the findings.