Woman says MTA arrested, cuffed her in moving train for illegal soft drink Transit officials say they are willing to investigate

August 26, 1998|By Paula Lavigne | Paula Lavigne,SUN STAFF

Mass Transit Administration officials say they are prepared to investigate a 74-year-old woman's complaint that a transit police officer handcuffed her to a pole in a moving light rail train Friday, because she refused to leave the car to throw away a small cup of ice.

Officer Stanley L. Smith followed protocol when he arrested Carmen I. Sanquirico, of Cockeysville. Sanquirico is accused of becoming belligerent after Smith said he pleaded with her for 20 minutes to stop drinking soda from a cup, which is prohibited on light rail trains, MTA officials said yesterday.

Maj. Victor Tomecek, MTA police deputy chief, said Smith's report of the arrest did not indicate that Sanquirico was handcuffed to a pole, which would not be permitted under MTA policy. He said the MTA would investigate if Sanquirico files a formal complaint with the MTA, but, "I still don't see anything to indicate any mishandling."

Sanquirico is demanding an apology and has consulted a lawyer, she said. "Nobody can believe what this gentleman has done. It wasn't necessary. That officer did not act properly," she said yesterday.

Sanquirico said she boarded a train at the light rail station at Howard and Baltimore streets about 3 p.m. Friday. En route to Hunt Valley, she sat in seats reserved for disabled riders, because she has arthritis and walks with a cane. Smith then approached and asked to see her ticket, she said.

The officer noticed what Sanquirico described as a small plastic cup with three pieces of ice left from a soda she drank before boarding the train. He pointed to signs that prohibited beverages and food aboard the train, which she said she had not seen.

"I said, 'Oh, I'm sorry,' " she said. "And then he said, 'Throw it out.' " Because there are no trash bins on the train, she said, the officer told her to get off the train at the next stop and throw the cup away. She said she refused because she believed she would not have time to get back on the train before it left.

She said he then placed her under arrest. "He handcuffed my right arm to a pole," she said. "And my stomach just went all the way down."

Sanquirico, a seamstress, held back tears as she demonstrated the way she said the officer handcuffed her wrists behind her back and escorted her off the train at the Cold Spring Lane station.

After being searched there by a female officer, Sanquirico said, a police cruiser took her downtown, where she spent a night at the Central Booking and Intake Center. Court Commissioner Michael Isler released her Saturday.

Sanquirico was charged with disorderly conduct and failure to obey an officer and is scheduled to appear in District Court Oct. 5.

On her dining room table yesterday, Sanquirico displayed two photographs of her wrists with bruises she says were caused by Smith's handcuffs. She also pointed to a wooden pole in the room that she was using to support herself, because she left her $22 cane on the train.

"I want my cane, and I want this gentleman to come in front of the judge and tell me he is sorry," she said.

Sanquirico, who said she was on medication for depression and arthritis, said she would have obeyed the officer had he let her throw the cup away in Hunt Valley.

Officer Smith could not be reached for comment, but MTA officials who spoke with him and reviewed his report said Sanquirico was not cooperative and Smith used arrest as a last resort.

Tomecek said Sanquirico refused to stop drinking, and after Smith pleaded with her to stop, she raised her voice and argued, disturbing other passengers. At that point, Tomecek said, Smith took Sanquirico into custody.

"Arrest is our last resort in these cases," he said, adding that Smith tried for nine stops to get her to stop drinking. "There was a noticeable progression in how he dealt with her. His only objective was to have her comply with the law."

The MTA report stated that Smith handcuffed Sanquirico, which the MTA allows. " I think his behavior indicated this is not what he really wanted to happen," Tomecek said.

Smith, an MTA officer for about 18 months, has "no blemishes on his record," Tomecek said. MTA spokesman Anthony Brown said officers receive diversity and sensitivity training with specific instructions on how to handle elderly passengers. Tomecek said MTA officers arrest people "every day" on trains and in stations, but he did not have statistics available yesterday.

"We have to consider the comfort and safety of all passengers," he said. Certain behavior "is offensive to other customers."

Pub Date: 8/26/98

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