Dewey Beach police officer Gregory Lynch Jr., 39, of Milford has been indicted by a grand jury in connection to an August incident near Bellevue Street in Dewey Beach.
According to a Department of Justice press release, police and EMTs were dispatched about 12:11 a.m., Aug. 10, to assist a male victim, age 26, who had lost consciousness and sustained an injury to the back of his head. The victim was able to sit on a stretcher but kept one foot on the ground and stated that he did not want to go to the hospital.
The release states as first responders and witnesses tried to convince the victim to lie down, Lynch grabbed the victim’s leg and put it on the stretcher. When the victim sat up on the stretcher, the release states, Lynch allegedly pushed him back down, climbed onto the stretcher, and repeatedly punched the victim in the face, causing the stretcher to rise off the ground and requiring others to hold the stretcher down to prevent it from flipping over. Lynch then handcuffed the victim to the stretcher and pulled him into an ambulance by his neck, the release states.
“The officers on scene advised that they did not get involved in the physical assault of the victim because they did not feel that the assault was justified,” court documents state.
The victim was later treated at Beebe Healthcare and diagnosed with a concussion, a broken nose, multiple hematomas and lacerations to his face, the release states. Court documents state the victim’s nose will not be properly aligned again.
According to the release, Lynch later claimed in a sworn affidavit that the victim had committed strangulation and two counts of offensive touching of a law enforcement officer, but those claims were contradicted by witness statements. All witnesses at the scene attested that the victim had put his hands up in an attempt to protect his face, but that he had not put his hands around Lynch’s throat as Lynch had claimed in a sworn affidavit, the release states.
“Based on the statements of every witness present, including other police officers, this was false,” court documents state. “Gregory Lynch Jr. intended to harm the victim by assaulting him and making him a felon for not immediately accepting medical treatment while he was injured.”
Court documents state that based on Lynch’s sworn affidavit, the victim was arrested when discharged from the hospital and was later incarcerated at Sussex Correctional Institution.
Lynch is charged with second-degree assault, second-degree perjury and official misconduct. Lynch turned himself in Nov. 19 and was released on his own recognizance.
In August 2014, the Town of Dewey Beach reached a $175,000 settlement in a case in which a man filed a complaint in U.S. District Court of Delaware accusing Lynch and another town police officer of using excessive force and unlawfully detaining him.
The man, Frank Shock of Prince George’s County, Md., filed the complaint in May 2013 stating that he was riding his bicycle home from Lighthouse Cove when a Dewey Beach patrol car swerved in front of him. The complaint stated Lynch and the other officer got out of the vehicle, picked Shock up from the bike and threw him on the pavement. The complaint said Lynch then placed his foot on the side of Shock’s face and ground his face into the pavement gravel.
Town Manager Scott Koenig said Lynch has been placed on leave.
“This matter is in the hands of the Department of Justice,” Koenig said. “The Town of Dewey Beach has no further comments.”
Koenig said because it is a personnel issue, he could not say when commissioners or town staff were aware of the Department of Justice investigation into Lynch. Dewey Mayor TJ Redefer could not be reached for comment.
Commissioner David Moskowitz said he did not learn about the Aug. 10 incident until Nov. 15.
“Mayor Redefer and the town manager need to answer when they first knew and what was done, if anything, in that three-month period,” Moskowitz said. “Town management has previously attempted to delay the police consultant and auditor’s bad management letter from commissioners and the public. For such serious potential liability, how could this be kept from the commissioners and the voters of Dewey Beach?”
Department of Justice spokesperson Mat Marshall said the investigation was conducted through the department’s Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust, which handles police use-of-force matters. The first case review is set for Monday, Dec. 16 in Superior Court, Marshall said.
Most findings in police department report still not addressed
Months after a police department report stated findings require immediate attention, most recommendations have not been implemented and no priorities have been set.
The June 30 analysis by retired Delaware State Police Capt. Gregory Warren detailed 40 findings and 35 recommendations to improve a host of conditions within the department.
Major findings were a desire for training and advancement opportunities; low salaries; need for an updated performance appraisal method; understaffed conditions; an unacceptable facility; a lack of trust between the department, certain town officials and employees; and the need for a strategic plan and updated policy manual.
Commissioners first met Aug. 9 to discuss the report, when Koenig said he would hire Warren to provide de-escalation training to officers. Koenig did not respond to a Nov. 20 email as to whether the training has occurred.
Commissioners and police officers met in a joint workshop Nov. 2 to discuss report recommendations, but a budget and timetable were not set.
Warren report recommendations implemented include raising police officer salaries July 29, 12 days before the Delaware Department of Justice alleges Lynch committed assault, perjury and misconduct, and hiring Warren to revise the police department manual in August.