77-year-old woman says police brutalized her

December 30, 1992|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer

"I'm no criminal," insists a 77-year-old Harundale woman who says county police brutalized her when they dragged her from her home in handcuffs and shackled her to a bench after she refused to obey their orders.

Police say Genevieve V. Marzucco of the 5000 block of Amberly Road had refused to let firefighters investigate a report of a blaze in her chimney when they arrived at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

"They dragged me out of the house in handcuffs," she said. "Talk about police brutality. One of them put his knee in my back and they dragged me out with no jacket or anything. If I was a man, I would have hit him back."

The incident began when county police patrolling the neighborhood off Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard noticed sparks and embers coming from Mrs. Marzucco's chimney and called firefighters.

Although Mrs. Marzucco initially refused to let them in, she relented and firefighters filed into the living room near a wood-burning stove, the police report said. But when firefighters placed a protective tarpaulin on the living room floor and took out fire extinguishers, Mrs. Marzucco -- who is 4 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 100 pounds -- became "combative," the report said.

She reportedly became verbally abusive and ordered everyone out of the house, the police report said.

At that point, Officers Kenneth Unitas and John Brothers arrested her.

Mrs. Marzucco was charged with obstructing a firefighter. She was released by a District Court commissioner on her own recognizance.

"I have a smoke alarm and there was no fire in my house," she said. "Those police officers were out of line. I was protecting my home. I told one of them he was a punk and he said that was another charge against me."

Sgt. Mark Howes, a police spokesman, defended the officers.

"The law does not distinguish between the age of a suspect. . . . If they interfere with the lawful order of a police officer, they are subject to arrest," he said.

Mrs. Marzucco got upset when she arrived at Northern District station, was fingerprinted, photographed and placed in a holding cell.

"I started screaming at them that I was no criminal and they were not going to put me in a cell," she said. "That's when they shackled me."

Frank Marzucco, Mrs. Marzucco's son, said a masonry contractor examined the chimney Sunday and said it was in "A-1 condition." It could be, Mr. Marzucco theorized, that the embers the firefighters saw from the chimney were from stoking the wood stove.

But Capt. Gary Sheckells, a Fire Department spokesman, said a trained battalion chief saw smoke coming from cracks in the chimney, indicating there was a fire.

"Mrs. Marzucco was very concerned that they [firefighters] would mess up the house," he said. "Specifically, she mentioned her carpeting."

Captain Sheckells said Battalion Chief Michael Schaal took Mrs. Marzucco aside and told her that firefighters would be extra careful, and would place a tarp over her carpet.

As Mrs. Marzucco talked to officers in the kitchen, firefighters were able to put out the fire, scraping out debris that had accumulated inside the chimney.

Frank Marzucco complained that, when he arrived at the station, officers were too busy watching a football game to help him. He said he plans to file a complaint.

"It should never have gotten to the point that they took a 77-year-old woman to the police station," he said. "They said she was combative. Well, I told the officers I hoped that my mother didn't hurt them."

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