Hartford police sergeant under investigation after punching Black woman in face during fight at police booking facility

Zach Murdock, Hartford Courant
·3 min read

A Hartford police sergeant is under criminal investigation and on paid leave after punching a Black woman in the face during an altercation inside the department’s booking facility last month, police confirmed Monday.

Sgt. James Guzie will remain on leave while both investigations are pending but neither is the first investigation into the 10-year veteran of the department, who was arrested in 2018 after a domestic incident but later had those charges dropped.

Guzie, who is white, was working in the department’s detention division March 15 when a woman arrested during a domestic violence incident was brought to the facility for booking and fought with several officers while not handcuffed during her processing, Chief Jason Thody said Monday.

During that altercation she yelled racial remarks and struck and spit at officers, including Guzie, who hit her once in the face when she lunged at him, Thody said. The woman declined medical treatment and no officers were injured.

The incident was reported to top police officials through the department’s use of force protocols, which prompted Thody to open an internal investigation and notify prosecutors, he said.

“I have been in contact with [Hartford] State’s Attorney [Sharmese] Walcott and provided her with all of the relevant materials,” Thody said, in a statement. “After review, she has decided to initiate a criminal investigation into the incident. Hartford Police personnel will work with Inspectors from the State’s Attorney’s Office to complete these investigations.”

Both that criminal investigation and an internal one into whether Guzie’s actions violated department policy are ongoing.

The woman, whom officials did not identify publicly Monday, did not make a complaint to the department but investigators planned to interview her about the incident, Thody said. Hartford police leadership review every use of force report filed by officers and the department’s use of force instructor at the police academy recommended Guzie’s actions be investigated further after reviewing the report and video footage of what happened.

Thody agreed and on Thursday ordered Guzie be placed on paid leave during the internal investigation, which was first reported Friday by local blogger Kevin Brookman. That day he also notified Walcott and reviewed the case with her, at which point she decided to open the criminal inquiry.

Guzie was arrested in 2018 and charged with disorderly conduct after a domestic incident in East Windsor and again that summer for violating a protective order, according to previous reports. Those criminal charges were later dismissed but the incident sparked an internal investigation at the time, Thody said.

Neither the outcome of that investigation nor further details about Guzie’s other disciplinary history at the department over almost 10 years of service were immediately available Monday evening.

The decision to investigate Guzie came just days after Hartford police arrested a former member of the department, Zachary Freeto, on one felony computer crime charge after a nearly yearlong investigation revealed Freeto had used his access to police databases to illegally search for personal information about dozens of his coworkers, records show.

Zach Murdock can be reached at zmurdock@courant.com.