Crime

Police chief, accused of punching man who allegedly tried to drown daughter, resigns

The police chief of Greenwood, Missouri, resigned last week, months after he was accused of using excessive force against a man charged with trying to drown his 6-month-old daughter in a pond.

Police Chief Greg Hallgrimson remained on administrative leave until he resigned May 29.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker in February asked the Missouri Highway Patrol to investigate Hallgrimson’s possible role in what happened to Jonathon Stephen Zicarelli, now 29, after he showed up Dec. 17 at the Greenwood Police Department and said he tried to kill his infant daughter.

That day, Zicarelli told officers he placed his infant daughter in a pond, police said. Hallgrimson and another officer rushed to the icy retention pond on the west side of Greenwood, a suburb of about 5,000 people 20 miles southeast of Kansas City.

There, the officers found the infant unconscious, floating face up in the pond, according to police.

Once they pulled the infant out, the officer and Hallgrimson removed the child’s wet clothes and wrapped her in the chief’s shirt to warm her body. The child was treated for severe hypothermia, police said.

Zicarelli was placed under arrest. It is then that the police chief allegedly used excessive force against him at the police station.

Zicarelli’s defense attorney, Susan Dill, told The Star on Thursday that video from the body-worn camera of another officer showed Hallgrimson grabbing Zicarelli by the throat, throwing him to the floor and punching him in the face. Hallgrimson sat on Zicarelli’s chest as he beat the suspect, whose hands were cuffed behind his back, Dill said.

According to Dill, the police chief told Zicarelli: “You deserve to die.”

Dill described the video as “shocking.” The chief had to be pulled off of Zicarelli, who suffered lacerations to his face and injury to his jaw, Dill said.

The video has not been released publicly. Hallgrimson has not been charged.

Investigators from the FBI visited Zicarelli at the Jackson County jail to investigate a possible criminal civil rights violation. Dill said to the best of her knowledge the FBI was still investigating Hallgrimson.

Dixon Land, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Kansas City, and Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Missouri, separately said they could not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

Hallgrimson’s attorney, Morgan Roach, declined to comment.

The former chief could not immediately be reached by The Star. He previously said his attorney told him not to discuss the matter.

Hallgrimson’s severance agreement showed Greenwood planned to write him a check for $6,500. In a statement posted online Tuesday, the city said Lamont Tatum would continue to serve as acting police chief.

In December, when police rescued Zicarelli’s daughter, Lt. Aaron Fordham called the save “a miracle.”

Police estimated the child was in the water for 10 minutes.

Zicarelli told investigators he had been planning to kill his daughter for more than 24 hours after having “bad thoughts,” according to charging documents. He said he wanted to make things easier for his wife, telling officers he was stressed by the holidays and by trying to provide for his family, according to police.

His attorney said he had mental health issues at the time.

Zicarelli has pleaded not guilty to charges of domestic assault and abuse or neglect of a child. He is set to go to trial in December.

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Luke Nozicka covers local crime and federal courts for The Kansas City Star. Before joining The Star, he covered breaking news and courts for The Des Moines Register.
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