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January 21. 2014 11:47PM

Salem officer fired over assault charge

SALEM — A police officer charged with assaulting a Maine man after a police pursuit was fired Tuesday.

Joseph Freda was terminated by Salem Town Manager Keith Hickey at the recommendation of Salem Police Chief Paul Donovan.

Hickey said in a statement that the town has a zero-tolerance policy for excessive use of force.

Hickey’s decision to fire Freda came after he waived an administrative hearing scheduled for Tuesday where he would have been allowed to challenge being placed on unpaid leave.

The state Attorney General’s Office charged Freda, 33, last week with two counts of simple assault for allegedly striking 39-year-old Thomas Templeton of York, Maine.

Freda allegedly struck Templeton in the head with a flashlight, and later stepped on his hands following a police pursuit on Oct. 6.

Templeton is currently being held at the Rockingham County jail on charges of reckless driving and disobeying a police officer.

Salem police were notified about the state investigation into Freda on Oct. 23, and placed him on paid administrative leave.

The police department cooperated with the state probe and later place Freda on unpaid leave after conducting an internal investigation into the matter, according to Deputy Police Chief Shawn Patten.

Hickey said Tuesday that the town will have no further comment about Freda’s case, citing the ongoing criminal case now pending in court. Freda is scheduled to be arraigned next month in 10th Circuit Court in Salem.

Donald Blaszka, Freda’s lawyer, said in an earlier interview that his client intends to plead not guilty to the charges.

Freda’s arrest came just days after a YouTube video showed a Seabrook police officer slamming a suspect’s face into a wall. The man who was shoved into the wall, Michael Bergeron, 23, of Seabrook, posted the video online earlier this month.

The November 2009 incident set off a criminal investigation by the Attorney General’s Office and U.S. Attorney’s Office. Three Seabrook police officers remain on paid leave while the case is being investigated.

Freda worked as a police officer in Brookline before joining the Salem department about 18 months ago.

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