HARTFORD, Mich. — On May 25, 2021, former Hartford Police Officer Matthew Mistretta was charged with multiple counts of assault and battery, and misconduct in office. He is facing years in prison.
“The reason I’m telling my story, is I have nothing left to lose," Mistretta said. "Total cumulative charges are seven years,”
The charges were brought forth by the State of Michigan Attorney General's office and surround an arrest Mistretta made in August 2020.
The AG's office says Mistretta can be seen throwing a man he is arresting to the ground while they are in handcuffs. This was documented on videos posted to social media.
The person Mistretta is arresting in the video is said to be 21-year-old Lauro Espino. Espino made no complaints about the arrest at the time of the incident.
Mistretta tells FOX 17 Espino was driving fast down Red Arrow highway, and appeared to be driving drunk. Mistretta pulled him over alone.
But shortly after pulling Espino over, Mistretta says he's not sure when exactly, he's told over his radio that Espino is involved in a nearby homicide scene. 911 dispatch audio has not been made available by the state to Mistretta's defense. He says it is critical to understanding what happened that night.
“I was told over my radio, you have my shooter at a traffic stop, something to that effect,” Mistretta said.
Only it wasn't a shooting. Espino is charged in connection to the death of 17-year-old Jesus De La Rosa.
De Le Rosa was hit by a car and killed.
Mistretta says he saw a passenger, a bloody lead pipe in the car and that Espino smelled of alcohol.
“Here I am, as a single officer, with two suspects in the car, that I was just told shot someone in the face. He’s covered in blood,” Mistretta said.
This information was not admissible in court on September 2nd for Mistretta's preliminary hearing. Espino invoked his fifth amendment rights to not incriminate himself. He is currently out on bond awaiting trial for the death of De La Rosa. That case is being prosecuted by Van Buren County.
“That defendant was able to stand mute, after he gave his full testimony, as he chose to do for the state,” Mistretta's attorney Jonathan Paasch said.
Mistretta's case was bound over to circuit court.
Mistretta was let go from Hartford PD months after the August incident for an unrelated issue.