PROVIDENCE — A veteran Providence police officer, Capt. Stephen J. Gencarella, appeared Thursday in District Court, charged with simple assault/battery after being accused of slamming the face of a handcuffed suspect into the pavement.
Gencarella was arraigned before Judge Melissa Dubose who released him on personal recognizance.
The misdemeanor charge that Gencarella faces stems from his involvement in the arrest of a 21-year-old man during the city's fireworks show off India Point Park on July 3. That arrest was caught on video and posted to Youtube by GoLocalProv, sparking harsh criticism from Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and for the city's police chief to recommend Gencarella be fired.
The man who was arrested, Armando Rivas, allegedly refused to remove a Jeep Cherokee from the travel lane of the nearby on-ramp to Interstate 195, according to police. Gencarella and another police officer had struggled to get Rivas into handcuffs, the police report states.
In the video of the arrest, as Rivas lay prone on the ground and handcuffed, it appears that Gencarella then raised the Rivas' head up by the hair before slamming the his face into the asphalt. That account was also relayed by Providence Police.
Those allegations were not aired during Gencarella's brief court appearance Thursday.
Assistant Attorney General Dan Guglielmo told Judge Dubose he had no objection to releasing Gencarella on personal recognizance.
Judge Dubose ordered Gencarella to have no contact with the complaining witness in the case.
Last week, Providence police moved to fire Gencarella through a process governed by the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, accusing him of six violations of rules, regulations, polices and standards of conduct, including violations related to the department's use of force policy.
Outside the courthouse Thursday, Gencarella's lawyer, Michael Colucci, suggested that Gencarella's conduct was reasonable, telling reporters that Rivas remained a threat even after he was handcuffed.
"That's the whole point," said Colucci, who spoke with Gencarella at his side. "The threat is not over until someone is searched and secured and placed in a cell."
"Use of force is use of force," Colucci added. "Whatever would work, if it is reasonable with some measure for a likelihood of success at the moment."
"We'll have a lot more to say when we get to trial," Colucci said.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Providence police captain charged with assault after video surfaces