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Videotape of Northampton arrest sparks reactions; mayor cites 'ongoing police investigation'

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  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/>A videotape of an arrest made by the Northampton Police Department early Sunday has sparked a variety of responses with some saying it appears that excessive force was used, while others support the officers. Mayor David J. Narkewicz says the incident remains under investigation.

    GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
    A videotape of an arrest made by the Northampton Police Department early Sunday has sparked a variety of responses with some saying it appears that excessive force was used, while others support the officers. Mayor David J. Narkewicz says the incident remains under investigation. Purchase photo reprints »

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/>A videotape of an arrest made by the Northampton Police Department early Sunday has sparked a variety of responses with some saying it appears that excessive force was used, while others support the officers. Mayor David J. Narkewicz says the incident remains under investigation.

    GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
    A videotape of an arrest made by the Northampton Police Department early Sunday has sparked a variety of responses with some saying it appears that excessive force was used, while others support the officers. Mayor David J. Narkewicz says the incident remains under investigation. Purchase photo reprints »

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/>A videotape of an arrest made by the Northampton Police Department early Sunday has sparked a variety of responses with some saying it appears that excessive force was used, while others support the officers. Mayor David J. Narkewicz says the incident remains under investigation.
  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/>A videotape of an arrest made by the Northampton Police Department early Sunday has sparked a variety of responses with some saying it appears that excessive force was used, while others support the officers. Mayor David J. Narkewicz says the incident remains under investigation.

NORTHAMPTON — Mayor David J. Narkewicz said he has received “numerous inquiries” about a YouTube video that alleges police misconduct during a Sunday morning arrest.

The five-minute video, titled “Northampton Massachusetts Police Brutality,” had been viewed more than 25,000 times as of Tuesday evening and sparked a flurry of online comments. Some supported the police while others said officers used excessive force. Many comments were critical of the anonymous videographer, who in the film claims to be a lawyer.

The footage shows police officers outside a Pleasant Street bar using pepper spray, tackling and handcuffing a man who, based on police reports and court files, appears to be Jonas Correia, 26, of 12A Longmeadow Drive, Amherst.

Correia on Monday pleaded not guilty in Northampton District Court to charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

He was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court May 16 for a pre-trial conference.

Attempts to reach Correia for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful. It was unclear if he had an attorney.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, Narkewicz said that “the events in question are still the subject of an ongoing police investigation.”

In the same statement, Police Chief Russell Sienkiewicz said, “The (Northampton Police Department) was summoned to Tully O’Reilly’s in response to a series of altercations that took place that night.

“In the moments before the video started, the arrested individual had attempted to assault a Tully’s bouncer and fled the grasp of an NPD officer, and he was then subdued, arrested and placed into custody.”

YouTube is not the only online site where the incident has been discussed.

In an open letter to Sienkiewicz posted Monday on Facebook, Desmond Duval of Amherst called the video “shocking” and “a shameful blot on the Northampton Police Department.”

“I might have expected this sort of behavior from the LAPD but not from the Northampton Police Department,” wrote Desmond, who described himself as owner and lead technician for Mobile Rapid Response Unit in Amherst.

Duval’s post expresses concern about what he describes as “the macing, tackling and arrest of a non-combative black man, who according to the video seemed to perform no crime more egregious than recording a police encounter that he was not himself a part of.”

“The unnamed victim had a phone out, recording their interactions,” Duval posted, adding that a copy of his Facebook letter is being shared through other social networking sites “along with pictures of the officers I have been able to extract from the video.”

Sienkiewicz said in a statement, “The taking of pictures played no role in the arrest. NPD officers are well-versed in the laws concerning videotaping, as clearly demonstrated by their non-interference with the filming of the YouTube video. Appropriate charges have been filed against this individual and will follow the usual procedure through the courts. The NPD is continuing to investigate this matter to assure compliance with all department rules and regulations.”

Neither Narkewicz nor Sienkiewicz immediately returned phone calls Tuesday evening from the Gazette seeking additional comment on the statement.

Court papers provided some additional details about the incident outside of Tully O’Reilly’s Pub. They allege that at about 1:35 a.m. Sunday, Correia was on the sidewalk outside the bar yelling at bar staff. According to reports from two officers, he raised his fist and took a “fighting stance” toward the staff person, prompting police to intervene.

According to police, an officer grabbed Correia’s wrist to prevent him from striking the staff person.

Correia allegedly pulled away and a second officer saw the confrontation and sprayed him in the face with pepper spray.

In the YouTube video, posted anonymously under the name “tiredofit,” two officers can be seen bringing Correia to the ground and placing him in restraints after the blast of pepper spray.

According to court files, police were called to Tully O’Reilly’s early Sunday morning to assist with the removal of Modesto Melendez, 22, of Holyoke, a patron who allegedly refused to leave the bar when asked by staff and punched a bar employee in the neck.

Melendez was arrested on charges of assault and battery, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, according to police.

He also was arraigned Monday and released on his own recognizance.

Lisa Lippiello, a criminal defense attorney in Northampton and a retired New York City police lieutenant, said that when she viewed the YouTube video, “I was not able to see or make out what might have prompted an arrest.”

But Lippiello also cautioned that the video provides a limited view of the situation.

“I don’t know what happened before that or what led up to that,” she said. “The video started when there was already a ruckus going on. So I don’t really know what happened.”

Lippiello added that she would be dismayed if the Northampton police ever created a technical unit similar to one she encountered in New York City, where officers were trained to videotape their department’s arrests.

“I really hope it doesn’t come down to that,” Lippiello said.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

Related

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Legacy Comments12

With the recent exposure of our Northampton Police Arrogance and Brutality coming to light I am going to lead a charge now... If you know who I am than you will know how I love to fight for freedom and how much I cherish this country and it's incredible history of sacrifice. Now is the time to take action my friends. Please contribute to a powerful new age where our dreams for equality can be re-ignited and where each individual voice can and should be heard and respected. I am tired of mediocrity and i hope you are as well. Now is the time to come out of the woodwork and stand together as true men and true women. Now is the time to get off your damn drugs and wake up. Now is the time for action. Like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Sougernor Truth, and Loretta Ross, I am asking Smith College and our Northampton community to support something again. It's called " true freedom" AND IT'S WORTH DYING FOR. Sincerely, Tom Nosal Smith College School For Social Work 1983. Become my Facebook friend and lets take a stand for justice...True American Justice, not the type of justice that our Northampton Police force promotes, but the kind of justice that our Constitution demands !

How many times does the NPD have to step over the line before someone reins them in. Hard to accurately judge this incident without knowing the whole circumstances prior to the videotape, but given past NPD behavior, it seems like yet another example of our police overreacted when "challenged" by behavior or words not to their liking, but well within utterances or actions clearly protected by the Constitution. Consider the Judge Ryan fiasco. NPD has gone so far as issue a criminal complaint to a man whose snowblower inadvertently threw snow into the street. Because the man did not demure in police presence but rather engaged in loud discussion with the police officer, a minor civil infraction that has rarely if ever been enforced became criminal. Yet the snow, which was declared hazardous was left there by the police and never removed. Perhaps a better use of our tax dollars would be anger management training for the police.

...and what ever happened to that vicious attack outside of the Bishops Lounge on January 28th. Why hasn't Northampton ever seen it necessary to place a video camera in the corner of Pearl Street ? For decades now fights have occurred and never has it dawned on our city officials that a strategically placed 24 hour video camera on a City owned telephone pole would not only capture horrendous events but it would also incriminate the evil that pervades our very own boys who call themselves cops and carry guns and hand cuffs. Shame on the Northampton Police for displaying the very violence we've always been against in this otherwise peace loving city !

"I'm an attorney" she said several times. Not one I would use. Use your actual name as the author if you are so sure about the whole story, instead of hiding behind "tiredofit".

It will be fascinating to see what is on the video of the alleged perpetrator's phone.

Once again, people jumping to conclusions based on a small segment of a video recording without knowing all of the facts. Not everything is a conspiracy or cover up. Please check yourself, get all the facts about what happen before you pass judgment. The police were called to the bar for a reason. In today's world of technology do you really think a police officer would just walk up on someone and spray them with mace for no reason....really? The confrontations within the bar prior to this incident are probably more telling than this video clip. NPD is one of the most respected police departments in the Valley, if the officer acted inappropriately trust that your Chief of Police and the Mayor will conduct a proper investigation into this matter. You may find more facts of this case revealed in court. It's easy to make derogatory remarks and bash people from the sidelines based on short video clips, supposition and assumptions. Check yourself, please.....

Very well said.

There's many cases related to police brutality specially to minorities racism in this state is a big part of it........................

Flynnbr - you know whats ridiculous? that in this video you can clearly see there was no need for a guy talking on his cellphone away from anyone else to be pepper sprayed. You know what else is ridiculous? That you are making a generalization that they provide "exemplary service to its city and its residents" and that accusing them is such a terrible thing. Crawl out of your little hole and face reality...you'll be better off.

The men and women of the Northampton Police Department are true professionals and provide exemplary service to the city and its residents. To accuse them of brutality or racism is ridiculous quite frankly.

Because clearly that's what I see in this video. I studied to be a Police Officer...I went on more ride alongs than rookie cops spend on patrol. I understand the continuum of force that a police officer is trained on. The claim by officers is that he raised his fists. Impossible. At 14 seconds he dropped his right hand...in his left hand...a phone video recording. Answer me this @flynnbr....how can someone menace a fist if they have a phone in their hand? I'll do it for you...they can't. Bottom Line...this is a clear abuse of power and a clear physical assault on this man. CLEAR as day. Now you can think what you will. But in a court of law...jury of citizens...someone is going to jail. I don't think it's Mr Corriea. In face...I see a separate jury of citizens giving him enough money to live for ten years without working. Courtesy of overzealous violent pompous arrogant Officers who give a bad name to the rest of the Police Force out there doing it "Right".

Oh please!!! REALLY????

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