In February 2019, the Fall River police responded to a 911 call about an argument between neighbors at an apartment complex.

One of the neighbors, David Lafrance, was briefly handcuffed while officers searched for a weapon. But as officers prepared to release him without charges, an exchange of insults escalated into violence.

At the time, police charged Lafrance with resisting arrest and a variety of other crimes. But surveillance footage obtained by Lafrance’s daughter has since unraveled that narrative. An officer filmed striking Lafrance in the face, Michael Pessoa, was indicted by a grand jury in 2019. Prosecutors allege that Officer Michael Pessoa initiated the violence, then collaborated with his colleagues on a series of false reports.

Starting on Monday, Pessoa will stand trial for felony charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, witness intimidation, civil rights violations and a misdemeanor charge of filing false reports.

Pessoa pleaded not guilty following his arrest in 2019. He was fired from the Fall River Police Department last year.

Motions filed by prosecutors in court during the lead-up to the trial have already offered a brief glimpse into the inner workings of a police department where several officers face similar accusations of filing false reports to cover up alleged police brutality.

Two former Fall River police officers have been granted immunity to testify. Prosecutors said in court filings that those former officers collaborated on false reports about Lafrance’s arrest with Pessoa, who is identified in the documents as “the defendant.”

“The defendant and the other officers all wrote their reports together, in the same room, and discussed the language they would use to describe the events surrounding Lafrance’s arrest,” Assistant District Attorneys Gillian Kirsch and William McCauley said in a motion filed in court this March. “These reports falsely described the incident.”

Prosecutors have also brought criminal charges against Pessoa for two other instances where the former officer allegedly beat civilians and lied about it in police reports. Judge Renee Dupuis has ordered that those charges will be heard at separate trials.

In the motion Kirsch and McCauley filed in March, they write that Pessoa has exhibited a pattern of “utilizing his authority as a police officer to engage in violent behavior towards individuals engaging in lawful behavior and lying about it to cover up his illegal actions.”

“His pattern of conduct is a use of physical force when faced with defiance by civilians,” the prosecutors said, “even though the defiance is only verbal and is non-assaultive.”

Opening arguments for the trial concerning the violent arrest of David Lafrance began last week in Fall River Superior Court. Judge Dupuis said she expects to send the case to the jury for deliberation on Tuesday or Wednesday following a recess for Memorial Day weekend.

Ben Berke is the South Coast Bureau Reporter for The Public’s Radio. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BenBerke6.