Dartmouth ICE Detention Center ‘Riot’ Video Released
The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has released some of the video footage captured during the clash at the ICE detention center on the campus of the Bristol County House of Correction in Dartmouth, after nearly three years of back and forth as to what the footage would show.
On that May 1, 2020 date, 25 immigration detainees housed in Unit B of the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center engaged in a disruption that caused “thousands upon thousands of dollars” in property damage, according to then-Sheriff Thomas Hodgson.
The incident began after detainees Hodgson said were showing at least two symptoms of COVID-19 were to be brought to the main jail facility for testing. The detainees responded by barricading themselves into the detention center with objects from around the facility, causing a significant amount of damage.
Hodgson claimed that his staff was “attacked by the ICE detainees” during the ruckus.
The state Attorney General’s Office, under then-AG Maura Healey, issued a report in December 2020 that claimed that “the BCSO violated the civil rights of the ICE B detainees” and that “the BCSO’s use of force…was excessive and disproportionate based on the totality of the circumstances.”
“Our central conclusion is that a series of institutional failures and poor decisions by BCSO leadership throughout the late afternoon and evening of May 1 culminated in a calculated – that is, planned and deliberate – use of force against the ICE B detainees that was disproportionate to the security needs at that time and that unnecessarily caused, or risked causing, harm to all involved,” the AG’s report stated.
Hodgson fired back at Healey, calling the report “baseless” and “politically motivated.”
“The Attorney General’s report goes to incredible lengths to dismiss and discount the truth about what really happened,” Hodgson said.
Heroux broke the news on WBSM’s SouthCoast Tonight Thursday that the video footage – which is only handheld camera video and not the surveillance video from the facility, because the latter would reveal the location of said hidden cameras – had been released. He offered up his take on what he saw after reviewing all 30 video clips that were released earlier this week.
“My initial impressions were (that) it wasn’t a riot, and it was probably avoidable,” he said. “It was disorderly at times, it certainly was, but I wouldn’t call it a riot.”
Heroux said it believed it was “avoidable” because rather than attempt to bring the detainees to the main jail for COVID testing, the nurses could have come to the detention center to test them instead.
“There were two messes. The first mess was the way the detainees barricaded themselves into the ICE detention center so nobody could come in. They took tables, washing machines, dryers and threw all that stuff up against some of the main entrances so the doors couldn’t be opened,” Heroux said. “Then they were just kind of hanging out. There were a couple of other things that got broken, but it wasn’t as if they were trashing the place, it wasn’t quite like that. So they’re just kind of hanging out, waiting.”
“The conflict, to be clear, (was) the detainees basically protesting, not rioting, and then they barricaded themselves in. I wouldn’t call that a riot,” Heroux reiterated.
As for the use of excessive force claimed by Healey’s report, Heroux said Hodgson’s claim that the detainees were almost immediately in flex cuffs and the situation was de-escalated within 90 seconds was “mostly true.”
“For the most part, what Hodgson said is mostly true, but that’s not all there is to it,” he said. “There were a handful of detainees who were resisting being put in cuffs. They were being given lawful orders, so they were supposed to comply, but if they don’t, the use of force is authorized. It shouldn’t necessarily be the first thing you do. There’s ways you can de-escalate a situation down from things, and I think those de-escalation attempts were probably jumped right over straight to force.”
Heroux pointed out one particular situation in which one of the detainees was being ordered to get on his knees, and he pleaded with officers that he couldn’t do so because he had bad knees, as the officers got him to the ground.
“This is where there was a lot of force. Now was it excessive force? That probably has to be looked at more closely,” Heroux said. “So I’m not going to say it was excessive force, but it was certainly still disturbing to me, because this one person was screaming and they were fighting with him trying to force him down.”
Hear Sheriff Heroux offer analysis of the video on SouthCoast Tonight:
Heroux suggested they could have had the man sit down “on his butt” and then rolled him over onto his stomach in order to place him in flex cuffs.
“You still could have gotten the compliance that you needed without maybe hurting his knees. Does this person have a legitimate knee issue? I have no idea, but there was another way to do it,” he said.
Heroux said what happened next was something that “was really disturbing,” and that was how the BCSO personnel were using dogs on the scene.
“There are two different types of dogs. There were the dogs outside the fence and the dogs inside the fence. The dogs inside the fence all had a muzzle on, and they couldn't bite any of the detainees because they had a muzzle on. The dogs outside the fence didn’t have a muzzle on,” he said.
“This one particular person who allegedly has the knee issue, his face was being pushed up against the chain link fence, that was pretty bad, but it gets worse because then you had a dog, I think it was a German shepherd, barking in his face about 12 inches away, serving absolutely no purpose whatsoever other than to try to intimidate this detainee,” Heroux said.
“In my opinion, the dogs shouldn’t have been there at all, period – and that’s not going to happen at all under me. If anybody does object to that, then we’re not going to have a dog program. That’s how upset I am about that, that’s how ticked off I am to see dogs used like that.”
"When somebody’s face is being pressed up against a chain link fence, on the other side of the fence you’ve got a dog without a muzzle barking 12 inches from the guys’ face, there’s no legitimate purpose to that,” Heroux said. “He’s in cuffs, there’s a dog 12 inches away from his face, sharp teeth, barking in his face and he’s screaming in agony.”
“There’s no legitimate purpose for that whatsoever,” he said. “So that I think is a clear case of excessive force. The whole thing just went sideways.”
In a Friday appearance on SouthCoast Tonight, Hodgson responded to Heroux’s assessment of the videos, saying that Heroux “had the right intentions in mind” but said “he doesn’t have the experience, doesn’t have the understanding” as to what occurred.
“It’s a disservice and frankly irresponsible to make the assessment,” Hodgson said. “If you’re not somebody that understands this, doesn’t understand the circumstance, it's not in your best interest or the best interest of the public to come out and start commenting on this.”
Hodgson responded to Heroux’s concern about the individual against the fence with the dog barking in his face by saying people should ask why that one person was up against the fence while no other detainees were in that position.
“And the fact that he’s up against the fence with a dog on the other side of the fence, those dogs are there for perimeter security, and dogs bark,” Hodgson said. “Do we have a problem with that? No. It sends a message to people that already trashed a unit at the taxpayers’ expense.”
“That dog was never coming through the fence,” he said.
Hodgson also lamented that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas still has not released the federal report on the incident, which was conducted at Hodgson’s request.
“I’ve been asking for the federal government to release this report for three years,” Hodgson said. “It’s unheard of that a federal investigation that I asked to be done not be completed and released after 90 days. They carried it out knowing I had an election coming up.”
Hodgson called it a “political travesty” and called once again on Mayorkas to release the report.
“He refuses to do it. You know why? It’s all a part of their political game. It’s all about stonewalling,” he said. “It’s all a game, it’s all about politics.”
See all 30 videos released by the AG's Office below: