4 teens charge police brutality

Denzell Pangelinan (above) was one of four youths who say they were beaten by police on South Street on Saturday.
Denzell Pangelinan (above) was one of four youths who say they were beaten by police on South Street on Saturday.
Posted: July 16, 2009

Considering the size of the crowd that filled South Street Saturday night, police say that things didn't turn out all that bad.

But four teenagers charged with assaulting police officers are alleging that they were victims of excessive force.

Police said that five officers were injured and 19 revelers were arrested Saturday after thousands of young people swarmed South Street. Cops had bulked up patrols on the street after "flash mobs" appeared on at least two weekends earlier this year.

Extra officers were also deployed in response to the annual Greek Week, which had been scaled back in recent years because of its association of rowdy crowds and mass arrests. Greek Week organizers and police said fraternity and sorority members were not involved in Saturday's incident.

Denzell Pangelinan was one of the four teens who said that police roughed them up without cause. Relatives or attorneys for all four teens spoke with the Daily News about what they said was police brutality. All four were charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest and related offenses.

Pangelinan's family filed a formal complaint with police on Tuesday. Family members of two others and an attorney for another said that they intendeded to do the same.

Pangelinan, 16, who is gay, said he arrived on South Street with his cousins about 11:25 p.m. Saturday. When he got there, pedestrians mocked him, he said, but "I thought there were so many cops around that the guys calling me names wouldn't hurt me."

A police officer approached, asked how old he was and if he had ID, he said. He responded no. Then the officer, Pangelinan said, "gripped my shirt and threw me against [a] car. I asked what he was arresting me for and he told me to shut the f--- up."

He said that the officer threw him to the ground and another officer held him down while a third hit him with a billy club. The incident left him with bruises, a cracked tooth and three cuts on his leg. He was taken by police to Children's Hospital, where he received several stitches and was released. Pangelinan said he believes the incident was motivated by his homosexuality.

A police source said that Pangelinan tried to scale a wall on South Street near 7th. He screamed at an officer who ordered him to leave the area, the source said. When the officer tried to arrest Pangelinan for disorderly conduct, he kicked the officer in the knee, police said.

Elfrida Bouie, Pangelinan's mother, said her son had never had any problems with police. Internal Affairs confirmed yesterday that she had filed a complaint with police.

Olivia Cotton, 18, said that she and her sister were on South Street with friends when cops began clearing the crowd.

"We weren't going to get stampeded, so we turned and ran," Cotton said. When they stopped running, she said, she couldn't find the others.

Distraught, she asked a motorcycle cop for help, but he ignored her, she said. In frustration, she said, she insulted him. Then, while she watched from the street, he drove his bike toward her, she said.

Fearing he would knock her over, she stuck her hands out, striking his windshield. An altercation followed, Cotton said. "I got punched, kicked; they stomped my head, and they Maced me two times," she said. "And they Tasered me on my leg."

Her 14-year-old sister was punched in the head and blacked out, said Jonathan James, the pair's attorney.

Cotton's sister also sustained two long scratches on her breast after her shirt was pulled down during the arrest, James said. Police also sprayed pepper-spray in her mouth and throat, zapped her with a Taser in the back, then lifted by her hair and threw heragainst a building, her attorney said.

A police source said that Cotton struck a sergeant on South Street near 4th. The sergeant was taken to a hospital for treatment of a cut above his eye. Cotton struggled with a Highway Patrol officer and state troopers who arrested her for allegedly striking the sergeant. Cotton's sister was arrested when she tried to intervene, the source said.

David Brooks, 17, lost contact with friends after police began to clear the street. He tried calling them on his cell phone, but an officer told him to put it down, he said.

He replied that he was trying to find his friends, and the officer repeated the demand, he said.

"They started moving in on me, pushing me, so I started stumbling back," Brooks said. "Every time I tried to move, the police officer pushed me."

"Another officer started yelling at me to put my hands up," Brooks said. "I started to put hands in the air, and that's when they started grabbing on me."

The phone fell from his hands, and cops stomped on it and smashed it with their nightsticks, he said. Brooks said that several officers forced him to the ground, and as they beat him, he said he heard them say, 'Let's Taser the motherf-----, let's Taser him.'

"Another asked, 'Are there any cameras around?' " Brooks said.

The police source said that Brooks was charged with assaulting police after a struggle with an officer on South Street near 2nd. The officer repeatedly told Brooks to move along as crowds began to swell on the sidewalks. Brooks ignored the cop, then gripped his arm. "At some point during all of this, the officer was assaulted," the source said.

His mother, Kim Brooks, said she didn't recognize her son when she picked him up from the police station. He had a broken nose and a black eye that was swollen shut, she said.

"My son has never had as much as a ticket," Kim Brooks said.

"I've always told my kid, 'If you ever get in trouble, look for a cop, someone in blue.'

"What do you tell a kid when the one kicking your face in is the one in blue?" she said.

Despite the arrests and the allegations of excessive force, police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said it was not a particularly rough Saturday on South Street.

"There were a few people out of hand, and police took action and unfortunately they had to make a few arrests," Vanore said.

"But all in all, it was not that bad a night."

Staff writer David Gambacorta contributed to this report.

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