Sunday, March 16, 2014
EASTHAMPTON — A 23-year-old city man faces charges including assault and battery with a dangerous weapon after a fight early Saturday morning at the Pulaski Club, although his mother claims he was the victim.
Police allege Joshua Alicea of 19 Arlington St. instigated a fight with another man and pulled a knife on him. Alicea’s mother, Lisa Alicea, who was also at the club during the incident, said her son is the victim of a racially motivated crime and that officers were biased against him because he is Puerto Rican.
Police Capt. Robert Alberti maintains officers conducted a thorough investigation, interviewed witnesses and found evidence — the knife — to support charging Joshua Alicea.
He said Lisa Alicea’s claims that officers were biased against her son are “completely erroneous.” He said that no one interviewed by police, including members of the Alicea family, said racial epithets had been used during the incident.
Police have filed paperwork to summon Joshua Alicea to Northampton District Court to face charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (knife), assault with a dangerous weapon (pool cue) and threatening to commit a crime (murder). Alberti said police did not arrest Alicea that night because he had been taken by ambulance to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton to be treated for facial injuries suffered during the fight.
Alberti said video surveillance footage from the club supports witness accounts that Alicea was the aggressor, but he also acknowledged that no knife was visible and that much of the fight was out of the camera’s range.
Officers responding to the incident concluded, based on interviews with two alleged victims and three witnesses, that Joshua Alicea started the fight after a 29-year-old bar patron made a comment to him about his gloves, which had blinking lights on them. A fight involving a pool cue ensued, police said.
A patron told police that Joshua Alicea pulled a knife and threatened to kill her, her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s mother.
In an interview, Lisa Alicea countered that the male patron targeted her son because of his race and made homophobic comments to him.
The man “trampled over me and attacked my son,” Lisa Alicea said. The man punched her son repeatedly in the face, she said, “until his blood was everywhere.”
Lisa Alicea said she was knocked to the ground and punched in the head several times, and another man punched her son in the side of his head.
“Everyone was yelling, ‘We don’t want your type here,’ ” and used the N-word repeatedly, she said. When they fled out the back door, she said, patrons came after them, and they fled in two cars.
Officers responding to a 911 call from the bartender about a fight involving a knife stopped both cars near the intersection of Franklin and Maple streets.
Joshua Alicea told an officer that he had gotten into a fight, but denied pulling a knife, and said he did not have a knife on him, according to police. Sgt. Brian Ross reported finding a knife in the car’s glove compartment that matched the description, given by witnesses, of a curved blade with red accents.
Lisa Alicea said her son never pulled a knife and that the blade was in the glove compartment of her car because she used it to install a car stereo.
The differing accounts cannot be clarified by the surveillance video because, according to police, most of the altercation was not caught on camera. Police declined to release the footage to the Gazette, saying it is part of a continuing investigation.
Alberti said the video shows Joshua Alicea approach the patron at the bar and wave his gloves near him, and then jab the man with the pool cue. At that point, the two go out of camera range.
Lisa Alicea questioned why police did not arrest the other man, given her son’s facial injuries. Alberti said police can’t arrest people on assault and battery charges unless it is a domestic incident, is witnessed by officers or is believed to involve a weapon.
The Aliceas were told that they could file their own criminal complaint against the man in Northampton District Court. That complaint was filed Tuesday, but will not be public unless a clerk finds reasonable cause to issue a charge.
Claims of racism
Lisa Alicea maintains that the attack and the charges are all products of racism she has endured in Easthampton during the last 13 years. “I’m making a big deal of this because we’re tired of this,” she said.
She said the police report failed to include her account and only briefly mentions her son’s comments.
“Where are our voices? We’re not even in there,” Lisa Alicea said. She spoke at the scene to Officer Luis Rivera, but he did not fill out a report.
Alberti said usually some but not all officers who investigate an incident write reports. He said he intends now to instruct Rivera to write a report.
“My officers deal with each incident or situation as the evidence presents, regardless of race, creed or color,” Alberti said.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.