One Connecticut State Police officer accused of being involved in the kidnapping and assault of a man who says two troopers beat him for hours in a Wethersfield home has pleaded not guilty.
Xaxier Cruz, 30, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to six counts, including with kidnapping in the first degree with a firearm, deprivation of rights by force of threat, assault second degree with a firearm and conspiracy.
Cruz, of Wethersfield, and trooper Rupert Laird, 30, of Manchester, were both charged and suspended from the Connecticut State Police Department after they were accused of brutally beating the victim because the man touched a woman the state troopers know. The troopers allegedly went as far as making the man kneel on a metal grater.
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The alleged assault happened at Cruz’s Wethersfield home when both state troopers were off-duty.
Police began investigating on Monday, Feb. 20 after a nurse from Saint Francis Hospital reported that a man arrived there to be treated and said he’d been beaten on Saturday.
After speaking with the nurse, police officers met with the victim, who was in pain and covered in dark purple bruises on his chest, back, thighs, stomach and buttocks, according to court documents.
When police spoke with the victim, he provided a detailed description of the alleged attack and said Laird punched him at least 20 times, kicked him as many times and struck him with a police baton at least 15 times.
The night started at Club Karma, on Airport Road, the victim said. He’d been there with Cruz and other people, drinking and smoking hookahs. After the club closed, the group went to Cruz’s house, where they had more drinks, according to the arrest warrant application.
At one point, the victim flirted with a woman and grabbed her buttocks. When he asked if she minded, she said, “no,” according to the victim.
The woman had a different version of events. When police spoke with her, she said the man was more aggressive. She relayed to officers that she felt the man crossed the line and said she told him he was bothering her, court documents state.
The man who accused Laird of the assault said he left Cruz’s early Saturday morning but returned around 8 a.m. because his girlfriend locked him out of the house.
When he got back to Cruz’s, Laird showed up and blocked him in the driveway, the victim told police.
Inside the house, Laird allegedly pulled a gun, pointed it at the victim and said, “You know I can kill you, right?” according to the victim.
“You know what, I’m not even going to do this because I’m a cop, but I’ve got connections,” Laird said, according to the victim. “If I was going to kill you no one would find your body,” he added.
After putting the gun on a shelf, Laird grabbed a police baton and told the victim he would “pay” for touching the woman, according to police documents.
Then Laird said, “We’re gonna settle this the old school way” and ordered the victim to take off his glasses and to strip down to his underwear, according to the victim, who said he did what he was told out of fear.
The victim went on to tell police that Laird bashed him into sheetrock, forced him to his knees and kicked him in the chest, hit his thighs and buttocks with the police baton and made him kneel on a metal grater.
During the alleged beating, Laird got winded and took breaks to drink beer. At one point he whispered, “You don’t think this is the first time I’ve done this?” the victim told police.
After the beating, Laird handed napkins to the victim and ordered him to clean up the blood that was splattered all over the floor, on the wall and on the refrigerator, according to the victim.
When he was done clearing, Laird told Cruz to take video.
Then Laird hit the victim again twice with the baton, forcing him to fall down, and took photos of the victim’s license, the man told police.
Before leaving, Laird warned the man not to tell people what happened and instead say the bruises were from being drunk and falling down, court paperwork says.
When police spoke with Cruz, he wasn’t willing to speak about what happened in his house, according to the court paperwork. While in the basement, investigators noticed what appeared to be drops of blood, including on the carpet and on the refrigerator.
Cruz and Laird turned themselves in to police in February, according to Wethersfield police.
Cruz was released last night after posting $750,000 bond.
Both state troopers have been arrested on six counts and charged with kidnapping in the first degree with a firearm, deprivation of rights by force of threat, assault in the second degree with a firearm, conspiracy and coercion.
Laird and Cruz have been placed under house arrest and were ordered to surrender their firearms, permits to carry and passports.