A white Milton police officer will be prosecuted criminally over an off-duty incident in which she allegedly derided and threatened her son’s 14-year-old friend, who is Black, over his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, a court official ruled Thursday.
Patricia Lio, 52, also allegedly attacked her husband, who tried to quell the September confrontation at their Westwood home. She now faces charges of assault to intimidate her son’s friend and assault and battery on her husband, according to a ruling issued Thursday.
Lio, her husband, and one of her sons, as well as a Westwood police sergeant, each testified Tuesday in Dedham District Court before Assistant Clerk Magistrate Beth P. Cook, who weighed whether to file charges. Cook determined Thursday there was probable cause for criminal charges.
“After consideration of the evidence put forth by the accused, I find that the witness testimony she presented does not disprove the evidence put forward by the Westwood Police,” Cook wrote in her decision.
Lio’s arraignment hasn’t been set, according to the court. She has been on paid administrative leave since October and an internal affairs investigation into her remains pending. Lio joined the force in 2002, the department said.
Milton police Deputy Chief James A. O’Neil wrote in an e-mail that the department is “very concerned about the case” and has “zero tolerance for any bias behavior, domestic violence, or aggressive behavior towards children.”
“The department’s intent is to be as transparent and thorough in investigating this matter as possible,” he said.
Lio’s lawyer, Douglas I. Louison, said the incident shouldn’t be treated as a criminal matter.
“She is a good police officer. She’s a good person and a good citizen,” he said. “She has no racial animus.”
The move to prosecute Lio comes amid a national reckoning over systemic racism and abuse within law enforcement, spurred by several high-profile killings of unarmed Black citizens.
On Thursday in Minneapolis, the defense rested its case in the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murdering George Floyd. Nearby in Brooklyn Center, Minn., a white former officer appeared in court Thursday to face charges she unjustly shot Black motorist Daunte Wright.
The Black Lives Matter movement, which has rallied in protest of police brutality and racially motivated violence against Black people, began as a social media hashtag after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed Black teen Trayvon Martin.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Lio testified that she opposes the Black Lives Matter movement’s support for defunding police departments and that anti-police sentiments have made her fear for her life.
On the night of the Sept. 19 confrontation, Lio’s son hosted a sleepover with the 14-year-old youth, who is Black, and a Hispanic teenager.
While the friends were watching a Celtics game at Lio’s home, police said, the youths heard Lio, who was in another part of the house, criticize the Black Lives Matter movement using expletives and calling it “phony.”
Lio testified that her other son had shown her a social media post earlier that day by the 14-year-old guest. The post referred to the Black Lives Matter movement’s support for cutting police budgets..
After Lio’s outburst, her sons explained to the sleepover guests that their mother “is scared for her life because of Black Lives Matter,” police said.
Lio allegedly then went into the room where the youths 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.
When Lio’s husband tried escort her away from the teens, she punched him in the face and he began to bleed, police said.
Lio then allegedly confronted the 14-year-old youth. She allegedly clenched her fists, got in his face, and used expletives to discuss the Black Lives Matters movement. The teen asked Lio if she planned to hit him, police said, and she said no.
“If you support Black Lives Matter, get the [expletive] out of my house,” Lio told the youth, according to Westwood Police Sergeant Chris Aylward.
Anthony Lio then got into a car with his son and his two friends. As the group left, Patricia Lio called the Hispanic youth an immigrant, banged on the windows, and tried to open the doors, though they were locked, Aylward testified.
In court this week, Lio’s 15 year-old son said that his mother was trying to get him to exit the vehicle, but he didn’t comply. Her husband testified that she didn’t strike him, and the blood came from a cut to his nose he sustained while doing construction work at his job.
On Tuesday, Lio denied the allegations against her and testified that 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,” she said at the hearing.
Attorney Alfred A. Gray Jr., who represents the family of the 14-year-old youth, said the social media post in question wasn’t written by the teen and it didn’t advocate for violence. He cited Lio’s testimony that she believed the teenager’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement meant he advocated for violence against all police.
“Nothing could be farther from the truth and her unprovoked behavior toward a teenager watching a Celtics game with her sons in her home is disturbing,” Gray said in a released statement.
Gray added that his clients are gratified by the court’s decision and wish for Lio to be held accountable for her “outrageous behavior.” The family asked the teenager not be named publicly because he is a minor.
The incident and its aftermath have “by far been one of the most difficult situations we have been through,” the statement said, and the family feels badly for the children who were involved.
Clerk magistrate hearings like the one in Lio’s case are typically held behind closed doors, but the Globe filed an appeal in October and the proceeding was made public.