Police Abuse

Massachusetts Cop Charged With Kicking Latino Teen, Spitting on Him, Saying: 'Welcome to the White Man's World'

The officer was caught on video threatening to plant a "kilo of coke" in another teen's pocket.


YouTube Screenshot via MassLive

Kicking a juvenile Latino teenager in the head. Spitting on him. Telling him: "Welcome to the white man's world." Threatening to plant a "kilo of coke" in another Latino teen's pocket.

Those are just a few of the more horrifying allegations made against a Massachusetts cop in a federal indictment unsealed yesterday. The accusations stem from a February 2016 incident in which two Springfield police officers allegedly used excessive force after several Latino teens allegedly stole an unmarked police car.

It all started with a pizza run, according to a civil lawsuit filed in August by one of the teens. On the night of February 26, then-Officer Stephen Vigneault drove his unmarked car to pick up some pizza for former narcotics detective Gregg Bigda. The lawsuit says Bigda had been drinking rum, and Vigneault was hoping to sober him up.

Vigneault left the car running while he was in the pizzeria, only to discover it was gone when he returned. The Washington Post reports what happened next:

The chase was on. The alleged thieves, a group of teenagers, were apparently looking for a joyride. For nearly four hours they got one, until a strip of spikes laid by police stopped the speeding TrailBlazer in its tracks. The doors flung open, and the suspected thieves jumped out, fleeing through the woods with police dogs on their heels. They made it as far as the porch of a multifamily home.

The federal indictment, filed on October 25, names both Bigda and Vigneault as defendants. While arresting one of the juveniles, identified as E.P., Bigda "willfully deprived" him of his right "to be free from unreasonable seizures, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer," the indictment says. The result was "bodily injury" sustained by E.P. The indictment says Vigneault acted in a similar manner while arresting another juvenile, identified as D.R.

The indictment did not go into detail regarding Vigneault's alleged use of excessive force. But the claims made against Bigda are disturbing. "During the course of the arrest," the indictment says, Bigda "kicked juvenile suspect E.P. in the head, spat on him, and said, 'welcome to the white man's world.'"

Things didn't improve after the teens were taken to the police station. According to the indictment, Bigda interrogated D.R. without his parents present and "without reading him his Miranda warnings." Bigda allegedly threatened to "crush [D.R.'s] skull and fucking get away with it," "fucking kill [D.R.] in the parking lot," "stick a fucking kilo of coke in [D.R.'s] pocket and put [him] away for fucking 15 years," and "kick [D.R.] right in the fucking face."

Bigda also interrogated a third juvenile and allegedly threatened to "beat the fuck out of" him.

Much of the interrogations was captured on surveillance video and released later in 2016.

"I'm not hampered by the fucking truth 'cause I don't give a fuck! People like you belong in jail. I'll charge you with whatever," Bigda says in the video, before threatening to plant drugs in D.R.'s pocket.

According to The Daily Beast, Bidga only received a 60-day suspension. He was able to return to work despite this being just the latest in a series of disturbing claims made against him. MassLive reports:

Bigda has a history of civilian complaints. He has been accused of assaulting a pregnant woman, saying "I hate Puerto Ricans" and pepper-spraying puppies to death.

In a statement yesterday, Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri said Bigda "will be suspended without pay due to the indictment."

Vigneault, meanwhile, resigned in the months after the incident. However, in a lawsuit filed last year, Vigneault claimed he was forced to step down, even though he didn't actually do anything wrong. Vigneault has maintained his innocence to the present day.

Still, he and Bigda were both arrested yesterday, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts. In addition to the other charges, Bigda also stands accused of filing two false reports with internal affairs in an effort to cover up his actions.

The press release notes that both officers "are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty." But regardless of what happens in court, the case highlights a glaring lack of accountability in the Springfield Police Department.

On its own, the video of Bigda conducting interrogations should have been enough to get him fired. The fact that he was able to return to work so soon is unacceptable. Even though the video was disturbing enough to spark a Justice Department probe, Bigda remained on the force, despite years of alleged misconduct.

Firing bad cops may be "damn near impossible," as Reason's Mike Riggs explained in 2012. But that doesn't justify Bigda's continued employment. As the video shows, it was clear he had no business being in any sort of position of authority.

The fact that it took federal charges for him to suspended indefinitely is inexcusable.

NEXT: Despite $900 Billion Spent and 2,400 U.S. Lives Lost, Afghanistan Continues to Deteriorate

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. How much training had the officers received? If they hadn’t received extensive training related to how not to abuse suspects, how not to plant evidence, and how not to pepper spray puppies to death, I don’t see how they could be held responsible.

    1. And they don’t get paid enough according to many local issues on Tuesday’s ballot…

  2. Yeah, but did he shoot their dog?

    1. “Bigda has a history of civilian complaints. He has been accused of assaulting a pregnant woman, saying “I hate Puerto Ricans” and pepper-spraying puppies to death.”

      Not their dog, but puppies…

      1. That’s horrible. What kind of monster tortures puppies to death with pepper spray when he could have just killed them quickly with bullets or a baton?

        1. Pepper spray doesn’t damage the pelts.

      2. I dearly hope this prick crosses the wrong person and gets his skull crushed. Even better if it’s part of some dirty deals that disgraces him so he doesn’t get some bullshit hero cop funeral.

  3. But anecdotal evidence is totally awful when it is negative and presented about immigrants.

    1. WTF are you talking about? This guy was indicted on more than “anecdotal” evidence. This article is about one bad cop and has nothing to do with immigrants.

      1. *two bad cops

        1. But thanks to the union, probably not two *broke* cops.

      2. Think real hard Leo. Wait for it…. Still nothing?

        Here, let me help you a little:
        “You use anecdotal evidence of immigrants raping and murdering to apply that to all immigrants and claim something must be done about them collectively”

        “This one instance of police abuse is evidence of police brutality, especially white police oppression of minorities across the nation and something must be done.”

        Something… something… principals…

    2. TIL that video = anecdotal evidence.

      1. It is anecdotal evidence for the claims that “this is a sign of endemic police abuse and something must be done.”

        That’s what John was pointing out. It’s totally evil to use anecdotes to apply generally to large groups of people, until you do it because its a group you don’t like.

  4. Those Alabama redneck good old boy cracker cops are Trump’s base, their behavior is so typical of…wait…

    “allegations made against a Massachusetts cop”

    Never mind.

    1. Waiting on the inevitable post from the Buttplug about how an incident from February 2016 demonstrates once again that Trump has emboldened white racists.

  5. And I thought federal charges in state matters were totally wrong and unnecessary? That is what we are told when it comes to the Pittsburgh shooter. I don’t see why police misconduct is necessarily a federal matter anymore than murder is.

    1. If there is a pattern of civil rights violations and the State is ignoring them, then they open themselves up to federal involvement. Protecting constitutional rights. One of the few actual legitimate functions of the federal government.

      1. Yes, if there was an indication that the Pennsylvania authorities wree covering for the Pittsburgh shooter we’d have a basis for federal involvement. But I don’t think that’s the case, I just think the feds want in on the action.

        1. Shocking crime = federal jurisdiction.

          It’s in the penumbras.

          1. right next to the emanations…

            1. It’s the LaCroix of jurisprudence.

    2. It’s not. But we’re really upset, so it needs moar federal involvement.

    3. One, the state charged the Philadelphia murderer with criminal homicide with strong evidence and the state showed clear intent to prosecute..
      Two, proving federal hate crime in that incident might be harder to prove than state murder charges.

      Additional federal charges in matters being handled by the state is totally wrong and unnecessary.

      Springfield PD was not adequately handling the opening post matter. Springfield, MA was not, neither was Massachusetts.

      In the murders of Christian and Newsome in Knoxville 2007 there was tremendous outside pressure to treat it as a federal hate crime. The local authorities resisted the calls for federal charges.

      They had the perps on carjacking, rape, torture, murder, corpse abuse. The perps were successfully convicted and the worst actors of the group will die in prison; their aiders and abetters did not get off easy. Federal hate crimes prosecution would have been a waste of taxpayer dollars and of everyones’ time and patience. Totally unnecesaary. And their lawyers could have gotten them off by pointing out the perps had friends of all races.

      If Pittsburgh or Pennsylvania showed no intention of prosecuting the murderer for murder, yeah, federal charges might be necessary. But that’s not likely.

  6. The fact that an obvious psychopath, like this man, was hired in the first place demonstrates the structural problems with North American policing. Add this to the “Occupying Army” training and procedures and you have a nightmare.

  7. I was so expecting the outcome to be “paid vacation”. But now he has to wait for his union lawyers to get him awarded back pay with interest. Is this progress?

  8. I was so expecting the outcome to be “paid vacation”. But now he has to wait for his union lawyers to get him awarded back pay with interest. Is this progress?

  9. We need to have a discussion about police compensation if they can afford a kilo of coke to just start planting willy nilly.

    1. He was narc division, so had access to stockpiles and was probably used to planting evidence.

      My guess is he was so upset about the incident because he had an illegal stash in the vehicle, or had been using at the time and didn’t want to get busted.

      But who knows, maybe he’s just a POS in general.

  10. There are no good guys in this one.

    Not the cops and not the idiots who stole the car and then spent four hours endangering the lives of all the other people using the roads during their idiotic joyride.

    Can they all lose?

    1. I’m going to guess the joyriders are facing some penalties for their behavior.

      1. Hell, if they get off for some reason. Get mad at the cops for so completely failing at their jobs, and their role as human beings, that it led to an obvious illegal activity being absolved.

        1. “Welcome to the world of due process”

          – said the judge to the cop

      2. Hopefully, at the very least, a charge of reckless endangerment for each person in every car they passed on their “joyride”.

        Might be hard to count, but with dashcams you could at least get an approximate number and then round down.

        1. I doubt the Springfield PD has dashboard cams. The Mass State Police do not have (or want) dashboard cams, and that is quite likely the best funded police department in the country on a per-officer basis. Hell, I’ve seen dashboard footage from police cars in Oklahoma from the early ’90s

      3. Per the article, the accusations include that at least one of the kids was not read his Miranda rights. So it’s possible that he got off because of that.

    2. Exactly what I was thinking!

      Honestly, MOST of the “bad cops are bad!” incidents are exactly this. These kids DID deserve to get their asses beat, arrested, and thrown in the klink. YOU DON’T FUCKING STEAL A COP CAR. Holy shit, how fucking stupid can you be???

      Honestly, they’re lucky they didn’t get shot. There were probably guns in the stolen cop car, which would have given them reasonable suspicion they were armed.

      But anyway, most of the time when cops unleash a can of whoop ass on some perp, they perp was a piece of shit who had 90% of it coming… But they went that extra 10% too far. Here, they obviously shouldn’t have done a few of the things they supposedly did, but most of it was fairly well justified.

      1. You don’t have to be 100% innocent to deserve due process.

        Malice does not belong in a law officer’s tool kit.

        Anger management is, thank goodness, a virtue practiced by most cops and corrections officers I have known.

        1. No, but getting your ass beat while being apprehended and thrown in the klink is perfectly in line with due process, assuming you’re resisting arrest… As almost all the people who get their asses beat or get shot have done.

      2. Uh, it was unmarked. Are we all supposed to be mind readers now?

        1. Have you ever seen the inside of an “unmarked” cop car? They have all the same fancy gear in them as normal cars. They also are usually distinguishable from the outside, hidden lights, antennas, and other stuff. Even if you thought you were just stealing a random car, the second you saw all that gear inside you should KNOW it was a cop car. I knew when I was still a kid…

  11. Closet heterosexuals

  12. “During the course of the arrest,” the indictment says, Bigda “kicked juvenile suspect E.P. in the head, spat on him, and said, ‘welcome to the white man’s world.'”

    Give him a break. He was drunk.

  13. LOL- this cop is a parody of himself. Well done

    1. Look, having your car stolen is almost as embarrassing for a law enforcement officer as shooting yourself in the dick with your partner’s service weapon. It’s in the handbook that if your feelings are hurt by disrespect (and this is a big one) then you can freakout. I don’t know how this indictment even happened.

  14. Welcome to police accountability!

  15. The press release notes that both officers “are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.”

    Nah. People like [them] belong in jail.

  16. Cops have the best dope.
    The man in the video should’ve taken the coke and give the cop a cut.
    It would’ve been a win-win situation.
    Where is this man’s business acumen?

  17. White men can beat the shit out of and murder brown people with impunity depending on what uniform they’re wearing, so his greeting was merely factual.

    1. Only white cops abuse their power, never cops of any other race.

      1. He said it.

        1. And you said it was factual.

          1. My apologies, I realize that stereotyping white men is terribly politically incorrect here.

            1. It is terribly politically correct everywhere else though. So carry on.

            2. It’s okay to stereotype when it’s THIS group of people. Yeah, that’s some firm logical ground to stand on.

      2. Except all those cases where black cops have shot people… Like other black people… But it’s all because COPS ARE RACIST AGAINST BLACKS AND BROWNS!!!

        Has NOTHING to do with the fact that black and brown people commit crimes at vastly higher rates or anything…

  18. Just as I think a robber who uses his finger or a water pistol to scare people into thinking they may die should be charged with armed robbery, so should this damn cop be charged with possession of a kilo of coke.

    At least under the current regime. I don’t believe drugs should be illegal, and I think all crimes should be based on actual harm. But if he could send the kid to jail by planting a kilo of coke, then that is what he should be punished for. I also believe perjurers should be punished as if guilty of the crime they were trying to forge. Thus this cop should be punished as if he had been found with a kilo of coke in his pocket, maximum possible punishment.

    1. Hey, if you’ve got a finger, you’ve got an arm.

      1. What if it’s a detached finger? Yakuza or Mafia leftover, say?

  19. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

    I tell young guys all the time if you go around acting like an ass, sooner or later you will run into a bad guy with no sense of humor.

    And, yes, stealing an unmarked police vehicle is stupid too. The article lost me there. Young punks got their asses punched in by a bad guy with no sense of humor.

    It’s not like the authorities over-reacted due to their jay walking. And if these junior grade felons are like any of the others I’ve known, if the police hadn’t done this it would have been hunting season on those same cops for the rest of their careers in that area.

    Good people don’t go randomly stealing vehicles.

    1. “Good people don’t go randomly stealing vehicles.”

      Thank you for refuting the position that good people randomly steal vehicles. That provides balance to this debate, which had grown one-sided on behalf of the goodness of stealing vehicles.

      1. Good people don’t RANDOMLY steal vehicles. You have to go in with a plan.

        1. Actually, there is randomness. A young idjit strolls out of his section 8 hovel to the local gas station in search of a beer and some smokes and… Merry Christmas! Some moron left his car unlocked/keys in the ignition and running. No plan required. Thieves are often on the dumb side of life, but joie de vivre they have plenty: spontaneous crime is a great day for them.

    2. Glad to see the the Libertarian position on criminal justice has been clarified as ‘any potential criminal offense justifies cursory and extrajudicial punishment by the King’s Men”. Steal a car, catch an uncontrolled rage beating, minus any pretense of due process.

      Sure, that sounds justice-y enough.

      1. I’m glad they got their punk asses kicked for stealing a police vehicle.

        I strongly doubt this was the first crime these two useless sacks collectively engaged in and I doubt fining them, which their broke non-working asses wouldn’t pay anyway, would contribute much to their not committing theft again.

        For what I refer to as crimes of assholery, petty theft/vandalism/spray painting/tagging, I want to bring back corporeal punishment. Forget some fine they’ll never pay, giving them networking opportunities in county jail for 30 days or community service. Just flog them and humiliate them in public. Give them a public beating and place them in the stocks chained ass to mouth and buck naked for 12 hours where people can take pictures of them and post them on the internet.

        The fear of going through that more than once will have a deterrent effect. Guaranteed.

  20. This seems totally believable. I grew up in New England and it is hands-down the most racist part of the USA. Just one reason I’ll never go back.

    1. Actually, statistically place where there are the most minorities are the ones where people are the most racist. At least as of data from a few years back, but I wouldn’t imagine that has changed.

      Whites in areas without lots of minorities tend to idealize them as the perfect creatures they see in the media, whereas people that actually have to deal with them on a daily basis tend to realize there are good ones and bad ones… But also have the horrible ability to believe their own lying eyes and note that many of them tend to do more bad things than honkies on average.

      I’m part Mexican and grew up in California in a minority majority city… I can tell you 100% from personal experience, crime rate data ain’t skewed against minorities because of racism, it’s just because they commit a lot more crimes.

      Like it or not, there it is.

  21. Massachusetts Cop Charged With Kicking Latino Teen, Spitting on Him, Saying: ‘Welcome to the White Man’s World’

    “Because, it’s in my nature”, replied the Trumpista, while the frog slowly slid under the water with him.

  22. I would bet that cop has learned the value of video recordings. When will the rest of us?

    Advancements in micro recording technology, cloud storage and recognition that we all have the right to record our memories, should create the demand to improve our own and others safety.

  23. if found guilty, these two “law enforcement” types should be hit with the toughest penalties available under the law. Civil actions for damages against the individuals and their departments being another matter. if it turns out that the claimants are less than truthful, they too should face severe penalties.

  24. First, if the Cop did actually assault the guy, then fuck him. BUT… That’s only what the complaint says. Why would we just assume it is correct? I don’t know where the complaint is coming from, but I think we all know that criminals and their lawyers constantly lie. There’s no video evidence, so let’s move on from that.

    As for what’s in the video above, I don’t have any problem. Cops lie during interrogations. They threaten, they trick, they do whatever they can to get information. Just because he says he’s going to assault the criminal and plant drugs, doesn’t mean he’s actually going to do it. The article cites previous complaints about the officer, but I’m betting EVERY officer in crime-ridden areas has complaints. Because criminals will do and say whatever they think will help them. The charge of falsifying police reports only holds if he did in fact assault someone. Otherwise, the reports are correct.

    I don’t know the legality of questioning juveniles without their parents or attorney in that jurisdiction, but he’s quite possibly guilty of that.

    Again, if the officer is guilty of assault, then he should be punished. But let’s not convict him based on what is probably only the testimony of the criminal he’s arresting.

    1. Cop or not, they have the presumption of innocence.

      *If* it’s only the word of a couple criminals against the cop, then I hope the jury will be skeptical, just as they ought to be skeptical of convicted criminals who are trotted out by the prosecutor with stories about their cellmates making incriminating confessions.

    2. “Cops lie during interrogations. They threaten, they trick, they do whatever they can to get information.”

      There’s a bit of a difference between “your buddy already confessed,” and “I could plant drugs on you.”

    3. “Cops lie during interrogations. They threaten, they trick, they do whatever they can to get information.”

      It’s one thing to tell what to outsiders is an obvious lie, like “your buddy already confessed, so you better come clean.”

      It’s not quite the same to say “I could plant drugs on you.” How does that encourage an honest confession?

    4. “Cops lie during interrogations. They threaten, they trick, they do whatever they can to get information. Just because he says he’s going to assault the criminal and plant drugs, doesn’t mean he’s actually going to do it.”

      Um, they’re not supposed to threaten. And a threat is still a threat, even if the person doesn’t intend to follow up.

    5. Guy definitely dropped the ball on some shit.

      He was undoubtedly PISSED about his car getting stolen.

      He shouldn’t have used THOSE particular lies probably when trying to get a confession. Lawyer thing may be legit too.

      As far as the “assault” goes… That may have been a totally legit action. Fleeing Grand Theft Auto suspects, pretty sure it’s okay to tackle them! Maybe throw a punch in their gut, or put a knee into their back to get cuffs on, etc. I see nothing wrong with that.

      If they were a jay walking suspect… Sure that’s excessive. But not for GTA.

      BUT if after they were cuffed, he sat there and kicked them straight in the head, stomach, etc 50 times… That’s excessive.

      Bottom line is, it is so hard to know WTF without more hard evidence like video. He didn’t handle himself well in what we have, but that isn’t automatic guilt about other stuff either…

  25. I guess here’s as good a place as any to bring up Whitey Bulger…

    Mob boss was murdered less than 24 hours after being transferred from a “safe” prison (housing informants, gang drop outs, and high profile inmates) to a notoriously dangerous and understaffed prison and placed in general population – even though he was extremely high profile and known rat.
    Whitey’s brother was a longtime Mass senator, then head of its university system.
    Whitey was infamous for collaborating with the FBI (while Comey and Mueller headed the Boston office) and using them to both eliminate competition and cover for his crimes.

    There’s more to the story, and one would hope Reason would find it interesting. Its elements include all sorts of corruption in politics and law enforcement.
    Weird that they’ve relatively ignored a MAJOR LE scandal…

    1. It’s not weird at all.

      Media doesn’t get access to authorities as sources when they expose the corruption of same. That isn’t profitable.

      Fake news is real. It is the stairs that we as a society have fallen down.

      1. I’ve seen no evidence that Reason has access to anybody, let alone authorities

        1. Plagiarizing with zero fact checking eh? That’s possible.

  26. Aside from the cops being indicted, business as usual.

  27. I was going to say I didn’t care but then it says he killed puppies, now he just went too far. Throw the key away.

    1. You’re such a dick! I was going to post the EXACT same thing. Everything sounded pretty not too bad, until the bit about killing puppies. That’s just fucked up. Puppies don’t do bad things, like degenerate criminals who probably have it comin’.

  28. I normally side against the cops but on this one I have mixed feelings. The officer clearly doesn’t care much about his car being stolen, he’s trying to figure out where the rolls of quarters came from. The car thieves claim from another car but the officer is smelling bullshit and thinks they broke in to a business. Now I don’t have a dog in the fight but I can’t help but admire the officer doing his due diligence to connect those rolls of quarters to a specific victim to restore justice, maybe it has reference to the “working man” but it really resonated with me. This is the kind of go-getter I’d hire for my private police force so it’s hard to fault him in providing that service to the public.

    1. As long as you’re cool with him drinking on the job, it’s your money.

  29. The only lesson here is don’t be car-stealing gangbanger.

  30. “… used excessive force after several Latino teens allegedly stole an unmarked police car.”

    And that car belonged to the angry cop. If the this were a movie, and the joy riding punk was finally stopped by the police who issue a dirty Harry like ultimatum, we would all root for Harry. Because we all like to see a punk kid get some justice for a change.

    this cop sounds like he has more than his share of dirty cop moments, and this is a time for #metoo-ism moments, so he too will get his due justice. But the kids deserve a good old fashioned police thump-fest.

    1. Exactly. Nearly every cop movie has some thugs getting their asses kicked (or murdered) and the audience cheers because they get to see the cop’s perspective. They want their blood. But you take it out of context and all of a sudden people have feelings for the poor criminal. I’m not advocating for excessive force, but that line has been pushed far too much toward a feathery touch. I rarely feel bad for criminals because the vast majority of the time they put themselves in that situation.

  31. FUCK COPS. Here we go again, pretending these crooked, violent beast cops are “serving and protecting”. Jail them? HELL NO, electric chair or lethal injection for these lying, violent shitty non-cops.

  32. Some people simply should not be police officers… Period

  33. I’ll bet he votes Democrat.

    1. I bet he votes your mom.

  34. Well that’s ugly. Cops there are a slightly different breed: some begin their shift with a kamikaze or two. But Mass was f-d before we even became a nation: the original slaver colony run by a people so revolting that Rhode Island was born.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.