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Local News

Group Home Worker Arrested On Assault, Abuse Charges

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Angelica Rivera (Courtesy East Hartford Police)

Angelica Rivera (Courtesy East Hartford Police)

By DAVE COLLINS, Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A worker at a Connecticut group home has been charged with a hate crime after a video surfaced showing her kicking a developmentally disabled resident, hitting her with what appears to be a belt and dragging her across a floor by her hair, police said.

East Hartford police on Friday announced the arrest of Angelica Rivera, 33, a worker at a group home owned by Options Unlimited Inc. She’s also charged with unlawful restraint, cruelty, assault and related counts.

It’s not clear if Rivera has a lawyer, and a message was left at a phone listing for her in Manchester on Friday morning.

Authorities released her on a $25,000 non-surety bond, meaning she didn’t have to put up any money. She was set to be arraigned in Manchester on Aug. 1.

Police said they began investigating Tuesday after DVDs of the 30-second video showing the assault were sent to Options Unlimited officials, a TV station and the state Department of Developmental Services, which regulates group homes.

During an interview with detectives on Wednesday, Rivera admitted she was the worker in the video, police said.

Authorities said they later obtained a warrant for her arrest and she turned herself in Thursday evening.

“I was outraged. It was the most heinous crime I’ve seen,” said Terrence Macy, commissioner of the Department of Developmental Services. “I don’t see how anybody could do that to a human being.”

The agency has suspended Options Unlimited from taking in any new residents at its six Connecticut group homes while state officials review conditions in all the homes, Macy said Friday. He also said the agency will increase monitoring of the homes. State records show the company cares for three to five residents at each location.

State officials also investigated another instance of alleged abuse at the East Hartford home last year, which led to some employees being fired, Macy said. Details of last year’s allegations weren’t available Friday.

Surveillance cameras were installed in the home after last year’s investigation, but the video that led to Rivera’s arrest was shot by someone sitting in the room. Officials believe it was recorded several months ago, and police are trying to figure out who shot the video.

A man who answered the phone at Options Unlimited’s headquarters in Bloomfield on Friday referred to a statement the company issued earlier in week.

The statement said company officials put Rivera on unpaid leave and were working closing with state regulators and police.

“We are deeply saddened and appalled by this incident,” the statement said. “As soon as we became aware of it, we took prompt action.”

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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