Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Eric Brown, 27, and his wife Monique Vasquez were arrested the evening of August 31 after a confrontation with Yonkers police. Residents who witnessed the incident told a local cable news reporter that at one point eight officers were on top of Brown, and that they repeatedly used racial epithets, including the "N" word. A local TV news broadcast also ran a clip of an amateur video showing a large police presence on the street and, at one point, several officers carrying a handcuffed person away.

Brown and Vasquez were charged with disorderly conduct, a violation and misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration. Brown faces an additional charge of unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.

Karen Edmonson, president of the Yonkers chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told the Journal News she was disgusted over the incident, especially that the charge had changed so drastically.

"This is a Yonkers special," she said. "When you're a black man in Yonkers, N.Y., you will not get justice."

A report on WCBS-TV said the amateur video shows the altercation. Witnesses say 27-year-old Eric Brown and his wife Monique were stopped by police while they were walking their pit bull.

Witnesses say police started to get violent with Brown after he said the pit bull belonged to a friend. The video shows multiple officers lifting Brown off the ground and carrying him into a police car after restraining him on the ground.

Brown's 8-year-old daughter and his mother-in-law watched the entire incident unfold.

"My mom was saying, 'Stop, stop, get off him, he didn't do nothing,' so they just took my mom and grabbed her," his daughter said.

Added his mother-in-law: "He started grabbing Eric. He started grabbing him, throwing him on the floor for no reason. He didn't do nothing wrong."

Witnesses also say they heard police officers using racial slurs.

It is to be noted that the Yonkers police even before this latest incident were suspect. Just two days before the arrest of Brown and Vasquez federal law enforcement officials announced a probe into brutality claims against the department. A letter from the Justice Department did not say what exactly prompted the investigation. It said federal authorities would "seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States in the use of force by members of the YPD."

According to the Journal News, people living on Yonkers' largely minority southwest side say an investigation of the Police Department is long overdue because officers have for years mistreated black residents.

Marquette Fields, a 51-year-old southwest Yonkers resident, said police assaulted her 19-year-old nephew on Riverdale Avenue last month during an arrest.

"While he was handcuffed, they beat him in the head," she said. "How could he be resisting arrest if he's handcuffed?"

Fields said police show no respect to black residents, especially on the southwest side.

"You say one thing wrong, and they arrest you."

The following is from Lower Hudson On Line.

Family, activists say Yonkers man was beaten twice by city police Friday night

YONKERS - Cries of police brutality escalated into screams of legal corruption outside City Court yesterday, where family members and activists gathered after a 28-year-old man's postponed arraignment on charges stemming from a confrontation with Yonkers police.

Eric Brown, who briefly appeared in court handcuffed, limping and with stitches above his right eye, was charged Friday night with violations of disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of marijuana, and misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration. On Saturday, he also was charged with second-degree assault, a felony.

While Brown remains in jail without bail, his arraignment was adjourned until today - five days after his arrest, his outraged supporters said.

Brown's wife, Monique Vasquez, 27, cried in front of the Cacace Justice Center and was comforted by her mother, Lola Reaster, who was also in tears. Both now say Yonkers police beat Brown twice - first on Friday during the confrontation, then again in jail over the weekend, after he had already been treated at St. Joseph's Hospital.

"He looked real terrible," Reaster said. "He can't hardly walk."

A spokeswoman for the Westchester County District Attorney said most suspects are arraigned within 24 hours, but someone who wants to retain his or her own attorney may end up waiting several days until those arrangements are completed.

"He refused Legal Aid. He wants to get his own lawyer, and he petitioned for time to do that," said Christina Frantom, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office. "During the arraignment, the court awarded him time."

But Brown's supporters say he should have been assigned a temporary attorney, so that bail could be set.

"I'm disgusted," said Karen Edmonson, president of the Yonkers chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "It's just all one big, utter, complete miscarriage."

Vasquez and Brown were walking on Hamilton Avenue when, according to Yonkers police, officers approached Brown because he did not clean up after his dog. They arrested Brown after he raised his hands toward an officer, and marijuana was found in his pocket, police said.

But Vasquez said police began cursing and using racial epithets, threw her husband on the ground, handcuffed him and beat him. One of the officers punched her, handcuffed her and dragged her into a police cruiser when she tried to protect Brown, she said. She was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and was released on $500 bail.

"(Brown) didn't do anything wrong," said Lamont Badru, 19, a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a local advocacy group. "There are witnesses, there's video footage. We have badge numbers and everything. We want indictments. Not only do we want him free, but we want indictments against these officers."

"Any allegation of police misconduct will be thoroughly investigated by this department," Yonkers Deputy Police Chief Charles Gardner said. "However, after several viewings of this video in question, in our opinion, it does not indicate excessive force was used.

"It should be noted that Eric Brown has an extensive arrest history," Gardner added.

Gardner said Brown was arrested nine times and has six misdemeanor convictions. He said Brown's arrests included charges of resisting arrest, assault, obstruction of governmental administration, disorderly conduct and bail jumping.

Gardner added that in October 2004 both Brown and his wife were arrested by the state police at Hawthorne. She pleaded guilty to attempted obstruction of governmental administration in February 2005.

Badru and his fellow group members said they believe the arraignment has been delayed so that Brown's injuries heal before he appears before news cameras.

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