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Spring Valley cop charged with assaulting man in jail cell

A Spring Valley police officer was accused Tuesday of beating a man who was in a jail cell at the village police station.

Oscar Lopez, 54, was charged with second-degree assault, a felony that carries a maximum punishment of seven years in prison.

He was arrested by Spring Valley police officers after he surrendered at the station Tuesday morning, according to court records.

The arrest stems from accusations by a prisoner that on Sept. 9 Lopez beat him with his police baton during an altercation in the jail cell between Lopez and the prisoner. The prisoner was scuffling with Lopez before Lopez responded by using the police baton, according to court records.

"We believe Lopez used too much force that was not justified in the altercation with the prisoner," Spring Valley Police Chief Paul Modica said. "The prisoner received physical injuries and was taken to the hospital for those injuries after (being) transferred to Rockland County Jail."

District Attorney Thomas Zugibe did not return calls seeking comment.

Lopez, a K-9 officer, has been suspended without pay in the wake of his arrest. He was placed on modified duty after the incident. He has been a full-time police officer with Spring Valley since 2007 following his retirement from the Newburgh police department, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant.

Lopez was arraigned before Spring Valley Village Judge David Fried and released on his own recognizance.

Modica said the arrest and suspension were not the result of any new guidelines put in place after another Spring Valley police officer, John Roper, was cleared by a Rockland County grand jury in May of the Dec. 14 shooting death of Herve Gilles. Roper shot Gilles, who suffered from mental illness, as Gilles was striking him with a nightstick during a late-night altercation near El Buen Gusto Bar off Main Street.

Gilles' family has filed a lawsuit against Roper and the village that is pending in federal court in White Plains.

Lopez could not be reached for comment. Officer John Kelly, the head of the Spring Valley Police Benevolent Association, also could not be reached for comment.

Lawyers for the PBA did not return calls seeking comment.

Lopez is due back in court Nov. 21.

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