NEWPORT, R.I. — The Newport Police Department has identified three officers who were involved in the arrests of two local men early Sunday that were captured in a viral video.
The department said in a news release Wednesday that the officers arrested one man because he had been throwing a mat and acting belligerently, and that the other had “startled” a detective by walking up behind him while the officers were making the arrest.
However, the department did not address the violence in the 24-second video — an officer shoving bystanders and knocking one headfirst into a lamppost and into street, then striking another passerby in the head and dragging him to the curb, where he was handcuffed.
The video has prompted a review by the Newport Police Department and the attorney general’s office. Although Newport police have had body-worn cameras since 2017, the police department hasn’t answered questions about whether the officers were using them.
Dennis Engleson and Christopher Adams, both 22, were charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and obstruction. Both men were arraigned and released to appear in District Court on July 6.
Their lawyers disagreed with the police department’s version of the incident.
“After reviewing the statement issued by the Newport Police Department today, my client vehemently disagrees with the characterization of the events that night,” Adams’ lawyer, Craig Hein of Newport, said Wednesday. “Once again, the video speaks very clearly for itself.”
Lawyer Christopher Millea, who is representing Engleson, said the police still hadn’t given him an official police report or documents regarding the arrest. As for the news release, “the only thing I would say is that it certainly differs from the facts as they’ve been presented,” Millea said in a text message.
The police said the incident began around 1:21 a.m. Sunday, shortly after the bars closed. Officer John Sullivan was assigned to the area of Thames and Green streets for crowd control, when he saw Engleson throwing a bar mat at pedestrians, the police said.
The police said that Sullivan told Engleson and his friends to leave several times, but Engleson continued yelling and acting belligerently, so the officer decided to arrest him for disorderly conduct and asked him for his ID.
“Engelson implied he was not going to be arrested and turned away from the officers’ direction,” the police said. “Engelson actively resisted his arrest, and additional officers were called to the scene.”
Officer Neil Sullivan responded to help arrest Engleson, and Detective Patrick Walsh arrived for crowd control, the police department said.
The video shows the two officers pressing Engleson up against a Newport Trolley, while other young people mill behind them. When one bystander appears to reach to touch one of the officers, a third officer — now identified as Walsh — grabs the bystander and shoves him and a woman away, slamming them into another young man who hits a light pole face-first and falls into the street.
The video shows Walsh return to where the other officers were arresting Engleson. The video shows Adams walking by and stopping behind them. Walsh suddenly turns and strikes him in the face, knocking him to the ground. Another video shared with the Globe shows an officer striking Adams in the head again as he lies by the curb.
The police department said Adams was arrested because he “interjected himself into the situation.”
“Detective Walsh, while controlling the crowd, was startled to see a male directly behind him as officers John and Neil Sullivan were still securing Engelson,” the police said. “Use of force was used to secure [Adams] ... who was brought to the ground for obstructing the two officers who were actively arresting Engelson.”
The department is directing anyone with more information about the incident to contact Captain Charles Silvia or email firstname.lastname@example.org.