Community activists are reacting to an incident uncovered by the NBC10 Boston Investigators, which detailed a serious three-vehicle wreck on the highway caused by former Brockton Police Chief Emanuel Gomes in his taxpayer-funded vehicle.
Massachusetts State Police did not cite Gomes for the crash and it flew under the radar for almost a year.
"When I saw your story, my jaw dropped," said Pastor Manny Daphnis, a leader with the Brockton Interfaith Community. "There should have been public accountability. It should have been made known."
Daphnis and other local faith leaders have spent the past couple of years calling for more transparency at City Hall and the police department. Specifically, they have asked for the implementation of a civilian review board to monitor complaints against police officers.
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In the May 2021 crash, two adults and a toddler went to the hospital after their vehicle flipped on its side.
So did Marie Francois, who was struck by Gomes’ vehicle while pulled over in the breakdown lane on Route 24.
The crash left Francois, a mother of five kids, with a separated shoulder and nerve damage in her arm. She now unexpectedly loses control of things she’s holding, something she learned the hard way when a pot of boiling water dropped on her foot, causing second-degree burns.
"This crash has affected me physically and emotionally," Francois told us, adding that it took months to muster the courage to get behind the wheel again.
City leaders said the police chief was on his way to the scene of a tragic drowning when two Brockton teens died. They never disclosed why he was not in attendance with other city leaders at a Saturday night press conference.
Gomes retired in January after a 36-year year career with the police department. Records show he is collecting a pension of $156,130.
"He gets the opportunity to walk without any ramifications. Something is very wrong," Daphnis said.
According to the State Police crash report, Gomes’ vehicle was traveling on the on-ramp from Interstate 495 to get onto Route 24 northbound.
For an unknown reason, the report said the chief veered off the ramp and struck Francois’ vehicle in the breakdown lane.
Gomes then continued into lanes of traffic and side-swiped the other vehicle, causing it to flip on its side. The chief’s vehicle ended up in the median of the highway.
Patrick Donovan, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, weighed in on state troopers not issuing any citations, despite concluding the police chief caused the crash.
"It’s extremely unusual to see a driver walk away without even having the matter reviewed somewhere in the court system," Donovan said. "The fact that didn’t happen is shocking."
Instead, Gomes refused medical treatment and received a ride home from a Brockton tow company. The incident does not appear on the RMV driving record obtained by the NBC10 Boston Investigators.
"I think there should be a review," Donovan said. "Somebody should look to find out why there are two sets of rules: one for police officers and one for regular motorists."
A State Police spokesperson said he had "no additional comment" when asked if the agency is reviewing how the incident was handled.
Meantime, a spokesperson for Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz said the office was not notified about the crash since no citation was issued. The spokesperson declined to answer a question about whether the DA thinks a review is needed.
In a statement, Brockton Mayor Robert Sullivan said the City "followed all appropriate procedures" with the accident and added that he is prohibited from further comment because of pending litigation.
A private citizen, who has no connection to the crash, has applied for a clerk magistrate hearing and will present evidence to see if the former chief should be charged. A clerk in Wrentham District Court confirmed that the hearing is slated for July 18.
"When public officials pretend they are above the law, it is up to the citizens to hold them to account,” said the complainant, who asked not to be publicly identified.
Because of that case, the City of Brockton has denied requests for other public records tied to the crash, including emails, phone calls, and text messages.
We reached out to every city council member after our report earlier this month and received two responses. Both elected officials, Susan Nicastro and Winthrop Farwell, said it was not unusual that they would not have been briefed on the chief’s crash and expressed confidence in the State Police investigation.
"I am very confident a thorough review by the State Police of all evidence, including the condition of the operators, cause of accident, and any mechanical issues with the vehicles was examined," said Farwell, who served more than two decades with the Brockton Police Department.
But some community groups say there are still plenty of unanswered questions about the circumstances around the incident.”
“The police have a hard job. I do not want to negate that,” said Daphnis, the Brockton pastor. “But nonetheless, in the world we live in, there needs to be some accountability.”
Ryan Kath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.