Complaints of brutality get airing

October 05, 1994|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

The county Police Department reportedly has begun an internal investigation into complaints of brutality against officers who quelled a disturbance outside a Crofton roller rink and arrested seven people late Friday.

Witnesses said the night began as a fun trip to the roller rink for about 250 Annapolis youngsters but ended in unruly police behavior.

"I saw one young girl getting slammed against the police car unnecessarily. I heard policemen cursing at kids and I saw them put the dog out there to intimidate the kids," said Clyde Carr, a chaperon for the trip who arrived after police.

"To me it looked like a scene from South Africa where white cops were chasing people, over-using force," he added.

According to a police report, the manager of Skate City in the 1000 block of Crain Highway called Western District officers shortly before midnight for help in controlling a disorderly crowd. The manager said the crowd was pushing against the glass windows, trying to enter the building.

Two 14-year-olds and a 15-year-old were charged as juveniles with disturbing the peace and released to their parents, and four young adults -- ages 18 to 21 -- were arrested on charges including hindering police, assault, disorderly conduct and ZTC trespassing, the department said.

Some youths who were in the crowd complained that police used unnecessary force in the arrests and in dispersing the crowd.

An aide at the county's Western District police station said she was told that internal affairs was investigating the incident and referred a caller to detectives there. But the detectives there could not be reached yesterday afternoon.

Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a longtime black activist who was a key speaker last night at a community meeting on the confrontation, also said the department was conducting an internal investigation.

About six busloads of youths, ranging in age from 9 to 18, had traveled from Annapolis to the skating rink for a trip that was a fund-raiser for a neighborhood skiing group.

Most already had bought tickets for the event and were waiting in line to enter the rink when the trouble occurred.

Phyllis Adams, who had sponsored the trip and rented the skating rink for a late-night, 3-hour session, said some of the teen-agers had driven there after an Annapolis High School football game. "About three or four" had been drinking, according to her husband, Preston Adams.

Pushing and shoving

The older crowd was "pushing and shoving," trying to get in, he said.

After the manager called the police and said she was shutting the rink down, Aisha Jones, 16, said, "The police came through there saying, 'Get . . . out of my way.' "

The Glen Burnie girl, who was inside the rink near the ticket counter, said an officer was "unnecessarily yelling," telling the youngsters that the rink was closed.

Aisha said her cousin, Tariq Belt, told the police to "just let the little kids skate, they've already paid for their tickets."

But "the police said no. My cousin said, 'That's why there's a lot of drug dealers out there now.' " She said the police officer shouted an expletive and said, "You're out of here!"

Other witnesses reported that was when the officer threw Mr. Belt against the walls inside the rink and began hitting him with what Aisha thought to be a billy club.

Mr. Belt, 18, who was among the young adults arrested, had been inside trying to control the crowd, Mr. Adams said.

When the officers told the youths to leave, 21-year-old Eric Griswold, who caught a ride to the rink with Mr. Belt, asked the young man for the keys to the car.

An officer then pushed Mr. Griswold, according to another witness, 16-year-old DeVaki Leonard.

"Another cop came out of nowhere and grabbed Eric by the neck and Eric was trying to get loose. He was saying, 'What are y'all doing? I didn't do anything.' "

He said the officers wrestled Mr. Griswold to the floor, and "one cop had his knee pressed in his head and the other cop was banging on him with a flashlight in his back.

Two people claimed to have seen an officer pull out his pistol and point it at the ceiling, causing many of the youths to begin to run.

Aisha said one officer pushed her out of the door and told her to go down the hill, away from the rink.

"I said I'm waiting for my cousin. He said, 'Just get down the hill,' and he punched me in the face," she said, adding that another officer later backhanded her in the face.

The officers directed her and her cousins across the street, where they were told to get on their knees.

Telia Brown, 17, said she saw an officer pinning a youth to the ground, hitting him with a flashlight, cursing and using a racial slur.

Mr. Carr, the chaperon who said he witnessed part of the turmoil, said he thought the police "overdid it because it was an all-black crowd."

"If they had treated me the way they treated some of those kids, I would have been in jail," Mr. Carr said. "I'm the type of person who will stand up for my rights."

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