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Video footage contradicts MBTA cops’ assault charge against Roxbury woman

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the Banner’s senior editor. VIEW BIO
Video footage contradicts MBTA cops’ assault charge against Roxbury woman
MBTA video footage shows officers Jennifer Garvey and Alfred Trinh kicking Mary Holmes' legs out from under her. (Photo: MBTA video)

At a time when the City of Boston has been seen resisting a proposal to outfit BPD officers with body-worn cameras, the case of a woman beaten by MBTA officers underscored how effective cameras can be at countering embellished police reports.

Roxbury resident Mary Holmes was passing through Dudley Station in March 26 of last year when she observed an MBTA officer, Jennifer Garvey, screaming at and shoving an elderly black woman. Holmes asked Garvey why she was being aggressive with the woman and called 911.

What happened next was captured on video cameras mounted under the eaves of the Dudley bus terminal. The ACLU of Massachusetts has posted the videos on their web page here, here, here and here.

First Garvey is seen advancing on Holmes, as Holmes walks backwards. Next, Garvey grabs Holmes’ phone, then smashes it to bits on the pavement. Finally, minutes later, Garvey and her then-partner, Officer Alfred Trinh shot pepper spray into Holmes’ eyes, beat her with batons, then threw her to the ground as commuters in the busy bus station scrambled (depicted at about 10:20 on the fourth video, above).

Thanks to the 911 call, audio captured Garvey cursing at Holmes and telling her to back up, while Holmes repeatedly tells Trinh that she is backing up, but Garvey keeps advancing on her. Although Garvey charged Holmes with assault and battery on a public employee, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, the MBTA video footage persuaded the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office to file a nolle prosequi, stating that it was “in the best interests of justice” not to prosecute the case.

“She could be in jail or on probation if it weren’t for the video,” said ACLU Attorney Carlton Williams, who defended Holmes in court.

On an even more disturbing note, when Holmes was taken bruised and bleeding to the MTBA’s Southampton Street police headquarters for booking, police refused her request to arrange for her children to be picked up from school for several hours. Department of Children and Families workers visited Holmes in her hospital (where she received stitches for an open wound on her leg) and twice visited her children at home while Holmes was being held.

Wednesday, armed with video evidence, Holmes filed suit against the MBTA Police, represented by attorney Howard Friedman and the ACLU of Massachusetts.

“The MBTA has signs everywhere telling people ‘if you see something, say something.’ This is exactly what Ms. Holmes did. She saw something wrong, and she spoke out. We need more people to follow Ms. Holmes’ lead and do the same,” said Jessie Rossman, staff attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts in a statement on the organization’s web page. “Unfortunately, the officers’ reactions are part of a broader, troubling trend, in which police officers mistreat individuals exercising their constitutional rights. It has to stop.”

For links to the videos and the Holmes’ complaint, check out the ACLU Massachusetts website.

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