LYNN, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts district attorney has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the arrests of three Black men and the alleged beating of one of them while in police custody.

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett in a statement Thursday said he had appointed Daniel Bennett, the former head of the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, to look into the case to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

Victor White, 32, told The Boston Globe that Lynn Officer Matt Coppinger, who is white, beat him inside a police station holding cell on June 16 when White refused to take off his sanitary mask for fear of catching COVID-19. Coppinger has since resigned.

“I was curled into a ball on the floor, screaming for help,” White said.

The Lynn Police Department's internal affairs investigation, including video of the incident, has been forwarded to the special prosecutor.

Three officers responding to a noise complaint had arrested White and two others for drinking in public, even though they say they were sitting on the front porch of White's apartment. Coppinger was not involved in the arrest, according to court records.

The district attorney’s office also said it was dropping the public drinking charge as well as charges of resisting arrest, assault on a police officer and disorderly conduct.

Patrick Gioia, an attorney for White and another of the men, said his clients feel vindicated.

“The case never should have been brought to begin with,” Gioia said.

White said he was relieved.

“We still want the officers involved held accountable for what they did. My civil rights were violated,” he told The Daily Item of Lynn.

Coppinger declined to comment when contacted by the Globe. But he previously told the newspaper he has been made a scapegoat. He said he was wrongfully forced out and has appealed his resignation to the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission.

Coppinger in his report of the incident said White refused a request to take off his mask, which are not allowed in the cells, according to The Daily Item.

“We gave him one final chance and told him it would be removed from him by us if he did not do so,” Coppinger wrote. “I then moved towards White to remove his mask from around his neck. When I reached for it, White grabbed my wrist, pushed me away and continued to hold onto my forearm with a firm grip."

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