Officer pleads not guilty to assault

Lt. Paul Nahrgang of the East Greenwich Police Department appears in Kent County District Court on Tuesday, July 23, 2013. Nahrang is accused of assaulting a man at a police station.

A 46-year-old East Greenwich police lieutenant pleaded not guilty Tuesday to assaulting a man being held at the police station.

Lt. Paul Nahrgang was charged last week with disorderly conduct and simple assault. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in Kent County District Court.

Nahrgang is accused of using excessive force on a man who was being held on a mischief charge. State police said it happened May 22 while in a cell block processing area.

The East Greenwich police chief filed a complaint with state police after watching surveillance video that allegedly shows Nahrgang choking a suspect.

"The confrontation became heated and Lt. Nahrgang lunged forward and grabbed the victim around the neck," said Maj. Todd Catlow of the Rhode Island State Police.

The alleged victim, 44-year-old Michael Ryan, refused comment.

Defense attorney John Lynch said his client has been in law enforcement for 24 years.

"This is why we don't try the cases in the police station. We're going to look at it with the cold light of day and do some analysis under the standard, under the criminal charges that they brought and see if it fits with what they charged him with," he said.

Lynch said Nahrgang hopes to return to serving the public.

"He loves it. It's what the always wanted to do growing up and it's what he wants to continue to do," Lynch said. "He's disappointed that he's been suspended and he hopes that he'll be vindicated by the end of this case."

Nahrgang remains suspended with pay, which is standard procedure whenever an officer faces misdemeanor charges.

Nahrgang's base salary is just over $66,000 a year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.