Connect with us


Former Fall River police officer sentenced to prison for using excessive force



A terminated former Fall River police officer has been sentenced to prison in the first of three trials.

Michael Pessoa was convicted by a jury of all charges late last month connected to a Feb. 12, 2019, incident where he assaulted David Lafrance, violated his civil rights, intimidated a witness & filed false police reports. The incident was caught on video surveillance.

According to Bristol County DA Thomas Quinn, Pessoa was sentenced Thursday by Judge Renee Dupuis to serve 1.5-3 years in state prison plus 1 year of probation. The Commonwealth recommended a four-to-five-year prison term. The Defense had requested one year of home confinement plus three years of probation.

On February 12, 2019, four Fall River Police Officers were dispatched to 554 South Main Street for the report of a potential fight amongst neighbors. Upon arrival, the police encountered the victim, David Lafrance, a resident of 554 South Main Street, outside in front of the home shoveling. Officers asked Lafrance if he would step inside to talk to them. He declined. Two officers, Thomas Roberts and the defendant, entered the building and spoke with the complainant. While Roberts and the defendant were inside the building, Officers Shawn Aguiar and Andre Demelo spoke with the victim, who explained that his neighbor had hit his car in the parking lot and had refused to give him the insurance information so he was trying to talk to them when they called the police. The complainant indicated that the victim “hunts so [she knows] he has guns” so Demelo and Aguiar handcuffed and pat frisked the victim, finding no weapons. The victim complied with the pat frisk and offered no resistance. While Roberts and the defendant were inside, the victim stood in the snowy driveway, handcuffed, and waited while the police conducted their investigation. The police testified that Lafrance was “mouthing off” and Lafrance indicated he was not happy to be handcuffed, but he nonetheless complied with their commands. Roberts, the lead officer, investigated and determined no charges were warranted. When Roberts and the defendant exited the building, Roberts asked Lafrance “what’s going on?” At that point, Lafrance said he did not want to talk to the police. Roberts then announced he was releasing Lafrance and walked behind him to uncuff him. Lafrance was flanked on all sides by police officers when he was being released.

The defendant took a position directly in front of Lafrance’s face, close enough that he could reach out and touch Lafrance, without any legitimate reason to do so. Lafrance testified that, as he was being released, with one handcuff already removed, the defendant called him a “fat f*ck,” which prompted Lafrance to respond by saying, “you’re a fat f*ck.” At that point, the defendant forcefully punched Lafrance in the face, taking him off his feet, ultimately landing on the ground. The punch caused Lafrance to momentarily lose consciousness. When he came to, he was on the pavement, handcuffed, with four officers on top of him, the defendant had his knee on Lafrance’s head and neck area. At that time, despite the fact that the police had no reason to arrest Lafrance, the defendant decided to arrest him and charge him with a number of offenses without probable cause to do so.

Officers brought Lafrance to his feet, brought him to the defendant’s cruiser, and the defendant threw Lafrance on the floorboard of the backseat of the cruiser, laying on his side, with his hands cuffed behind his back. The defendant then walked around to the driver’s side, opened the backseat door and punched Lafrance in the mouth, causing cuts, bleeding, and swelling to his mouth. The defendant drove the victim to the police station and, upon arrival, left the victim in the cruiser, lying on the floorboard, injured, bleeding and handcuffed, for approximately ten minutes before bringing the victim into the station.

The defendant wrote an arrest report charging Lafrance with resisting arrest, assault, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, threats, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. In that report, the defendant lied, claiming that Lafrance said “look up my name b*tch and see what I’m about.” The defendant also wrote that Lafrance threatened to “punch you all in the head” when the handcuffs came off. The defendant also lied stating that he and Thomas Roberts used an arm bar takedown on Lafrance. When his supervisor reviewed the arrest report, he asked the defendant if Lafrance was injured. The defendant lied and said he was not. Approximately a half hour later, the supervisor viewed the booking photo of David Lafrance which showed an obvious injury to Lafrance’s face. At that time, the supervisor confronted the defendant about the injury. The defendant replied that he “didn’t know Lafrance was injured” and that he did not transport Lafrance to the station. The supervisor, concerned that there was a person in police custody with an unexplained injury, then required the defendant and the three other officers to complete use of force reports, documenting exactly what they did to take Lafrance to the ground. The four officers then went to the computer room where they discussed what they were going to put in their reports, so they were consistent. The defendant, and the other officers, lied in the use of force reports as well, stating, among other things, that Lafrance failed to follow commands; Lafrance threatened to punch the officers; Lafrance was disorderly; and an arm bar take down was used on Lafrance.

The following day, Lafrance was arraigned on all of those charges, and he went to the hospital to receive treatment. Photos were taken of cuts, abrasions, bruises, and swelling to his arms, legs, head, and face. Lafrance ultimately obtained the surveillance video from the parking lot where the assault took place. Lafrance provided that to his attorney who ultimately provided the video to the Bristol District Attorney’s Office. That video, which showed the defendant punching Lafrance in the face, prompted an investigation and the charges lodged against Mr. Lafrance were dismissed. Aguiar and Roberts invoked their fifth amendment right at the Grand Jury and were ultimately immunized by the Commonwealth for both grand jury and the trial. Both Aguiar and Roberts admitted they lied in their use of force reports and that there was collusion among the four officers. Aguiar testified at trial that the defendant’s actions were “unnecessary” and that he did not agree with how the defendant handled the situation. Roberts testified that he did not hear the victim make any threat and did not know how or why the victim was brought to the ground.

All four of the officers involved are no longer employed by the City of Fall River.

Pessoa was initially indicted in 2019 on charges of one count of aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of assault and battery, four counts of civil rights violation with bodily injury, three counts of intimidation of a witness (misleading), three counts of filing a false report by a public officer and one count of malicious destruction of property.

Since the initial indictment, a judge had dismissed 4 of his 15 charges due to lack of evidence which included one count each of filing a false report by a public officer, intimidation of a witness, civil rights violation with bodily injury, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

The matter was referred to the DA by the Fall River Police Department in March of 2019 and Pessoa was indicted in June of the same year. Investigators from the district attorney’s office worked together with the Fall River Police Department throughout the investigation.

Pessoa was initially accused of using excessive and unnecessary force in four separate incidents. The incidents occurred in 2014, 2018 and twice in 2019. He is also accused of violating the civil rights of arrestees and filing false police reports. The victims in at least three of the four initial cases received injuries that required trips to the hospital. Concerning one of the incidents in 2019, a judge ruled that the prosecution failed to produce evidence that Pessoa’s actions were not justified when he broke a suspect’s nose which led to the four dismissed charges.

On December 16th of last year, it was ruled that Pessoa would face three separate trials as the three incidents were not related.

In January of 2022, then Interim Police Chief Paul Gauvin stated that Pessoa had been terminated as a member of the Fall River Police Department.

Gauvin issued a statement after Pessoa’s conviction.

“It’s certainly a sad day in the department’s history. But I think it’s important to note that the Fall River Police Department investigated this matter internally, leading to his termination. We investigated this matter criminally and assisted through all phases of the prosecution. Despite the fact that the prosecution has ended, we need to move forward and continue the all-important work of regaining the trust and confidence of this community and restoring the pride, dignity, and honor of the Fall River Police Department. I have no doubt, with the help of all our officers who come to work every day and make a difference in our city, that we will meet this challenge.”

“The defendant was held accountable by the jury for ‘crossing the line’ by assaulting the victim, filing false police reports and trying to cover up his conduct. His actions undermined the public confidence in the police department and also implicated his fellow officers by involving them in a cover up of his criminal conduct. The prison sentence reflected the serious nature of the crimes committed by the defendant,” District Attorney Quinn said. “While his behavior was egregious, it does not reflect upon the vast majority of police officers who are serving and protecting the public under difficult circumstances.”



  1. Jake Perry

    June 22, 2023 at 3:35 pm

    Watcha gonna do when they come for you Michael Pessoa Michael Pessoa Michael Pessoa

  2. DewDad

    June 22, 2023 at 5:36 pm

    So this clown now gets emotional because he got a slap on the wrist. What a baby.

  3. BlueLover

    June 23, 2023 at 1:59 pm

    He’s a good guy, the stress of the job got to him. Grade A Hero!



    June 24, 2023 at 9:44 am

    What a sentence, 1.5-3 years is a joke,he’ll be out before you know it. I met this guy before and he was a jerk then, The good part is that he lost his career, Maybe he can get his GED upstate and learn where to go from here,I hope he gets classed at Souza Barkonsic, hes gonna wish he did, Concord is gonna eat you up unless you PC in new line,we all pay for our actions one way or other,totally unfair the sentence you received,Not over yet 3 more indictments to answer for,hope u get what u deserve,Why cant you get the same punshiment you did to Lafrance? Handcuffed and beat up that be more appropriate, Enjky your canteen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Copyright © 2017 Fall River Reporter

Translate »