Feds allege former Hadley police officer beat man, falsified reports

Thursday, February 01, 2018

SPRINGFIELD — A former Hadley Police officer was arrested and arraigned in U.S. District Court Jan. 26 for allegedly breaking a man’s nose while he was in police custody and lying on reports to justify the violence.

Christopher M. Roeder, 48, of Agawam, was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on charges of deprivation of rights under color of law and falsification of a document. The court documents were briefly sealed until Friday when Roeder was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Springfield.

An arrest warrant was issued by Judge Katherine A. Robertson on Jan. 25. Roeder was arraigned and pleaded not guilty the afternoon of Jan. 26 and was released on $1,500 unsecured bond, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office.

“When Roeder, while performing his official duties as a police officer, struck the victim and broke his nose, he did not do so to ensure the safety of the officers present,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Deepika Bains Shukla wrote in court documents. “He did not do so because he felt any threat from the victim. Roeder viciously attacked the victim when he was most vulnerable, as an arrestee in the custody of and at the mercy of Roeder — and Roeder did so for retribution.”

A call to a number listed for Roeder was not returned Jan. 26, and an attorney for him was not listed in court documents.

The charges result from an incident on April 3, 2017, although the events leading up to it began a few days earlier, according to court documents. The alleged victim, a man, is not named in court documents.

On March 30, 2017, Roeder was working a traffic detail on Route 47 in Hadley when the man approached the work zone in a pickup truck. Roeder motioned to the truck driver to slow down, which the man did, according to court documents.

“As the victim drove through the work zone slowly, Roeder approached the pickup truck and struck the side of truck with his hand,” Shukla wrote. “The victim responded, ‘Why did you hit my truck?’ In response, Roeder ordered the victim to pull over. Seeing Roeder’s anger, the victim did not pull over; instead he drove off.”

Over the course of the next few days, Roeder allegedly told fellow Hadley Police officers that a pickup truck had struck him with its sideview mirror while on traffic duty but he did not seek medical attention, according to Shukla’s motion. On April 3, the man once again drove through the work zone, making eye contact with Roeder. The man “sensed Roeder’s recognition of him from the incident on March 30” and pulled over.

Roeder approached the driver’s side window, leaned into the truck, and said “remember me, motherf---ers?” before returning to his own vehicle to call his supervisor for assistance, Shukla explained. Roeder then ordered the man out of his truck, handcuffed him and after two additional officers arrived, placed the man into the back of Roeder’s police cruiser.

The man was charged with 10 offenses including reckless assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a police officer, failure to stop for police, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, leaving the scene of personal injury, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and speeding. Seven charges resulted from the March 30 incident and three were a result of Roeder’s interaction with the man on April 3. All of the charges were later dismissed by the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

While the man was being booked on the charges in Hadley, Roeder told him he was “not in charge here” after he stood up to answer another officer’s question. After the man sat back down, Roeder grabbed his handcuffs and approached the man, who placed his hands behind his back, according to court documents.

“In response, Roeder attempted to pull the victim’s hands in front of him, and immediately delivered a swift and powerful elbow strike to the bridge of the victim’s nose,” Shukla wrote.

A loud thud followed, which Shukla stated was “apparently generated from the victim’s head bouncing off the concrete wall behind him.” Prosecutors viewed video of the incident.

“Roeder gained control of the victim’s hands and handcuffed his left hand to the metal bar behind him. The victim’s body went limp on the video for a moment and he appeared disoriented,” Shukla wrote. “He had trouble remembering his name when the assisting officer asked. Profuse amounts of blood gushed from the victim’s nose and pooled near his feet on the booking area floor.”

The interaction was captured on video from two angles, one of which had audio, according to court documents. It was later determined that the man’s nose was broken and needed plastic surgery to fix it.

Before seeking medical attention, the officer assisting Roeder attempted to bring the man to the jail, which refused to accept him and said he needed to go to the hospital. After being treated, the man was brought back to the jail and was arraigned in court the following day.

Shortly after Roeder struck the man, Roeder left the booking area and watched the video with his supervisor and then sat down to write his report, according to Shukla’s court filing.

In the filing, Shukla alleges that an ensuing five-page report Roeder wrote about his encounters with the man contained multiple false statements, including that the man made an obscene comment while being photographed during booking; that Roeder used his right hand to gain control of the man’s left arm while ordering him to stop resisting; and that Roeder had no alternative options than to strike the man in the face.

Roeder currently works in a supervisory law enforcement position as a campus police sergeant at a local college, according to court documents. Roeder apparently does not work at any of the Five Colleges, and Daily Hampshire Gazette reporters were unable to determine what school employs him.

Roeder was appointed a special police officer in Hadley in 2013 and became a traffic safety officer with the Hadley Police Department in November 2016, according to town documents. It was not immediately known the evening of Jan. 26 when Roeder left the Hadley Police Department.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.