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Video shows struggle between Conn. officer and teenager

The Bridgeport officer defended her actions and said she 'feared' that the suspect had a gun


By Daniel Tepfer and Michael P. Mayko
Connecticut Post, Bridgeport, Conn.

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A female police officer, under fire after a video was made public showing her repeatedly punching a black teenager following a minor traffic accident Friday night, defended her actions in a report obtained Monday by Hearst Connecticut Media.

“I feared for my safety as well as officers on scene that suspect was pulling away and actively resisting due to concealing a firearm. Due to these reasons I then struck (Aaron) Kearney multiple times in the face with both fists in an attempt for him to loosen his grip of his arms and bring them out from his body,” Officer Christina Arroyo states in her addendum to the main report on the incident.

But City Councilwoman Eneida Martinez said she did not find the officer’s story convincing.

“This kid didn’t have a weapon, the excessive force she (Arroyo) used wasn’t called for,” Martinez said.

The councilwoman said Arroyo, who has been put on administrative duty pending an investigation, has a history of excessive force allegations but she said she has full confidence that Police Chief Armando “AJ” Perez will do a thorough investigation.

Following the Friday night incident 18-year-old Aaron Kearney, who graduated Harding High School in June and was captain of the school’s football team, was treated at Bridgeport Hospital for abrasion on his neck and face and a cut on his lower lip.

Arroyo states in her report she had Kearney’s blood on her uniform and suffered pain in her right hand and swelling to her middle finger.

“The chief has called for an investigation and we are looking forward to the end result of that investigation,” said police union President Charles Paris.

Aggressive tactics

Shortly after 9:30 p.m. on Friday police were called to a motor vehicle crash on Seaview Avenue, according to the report of Officer David Ortiz.

“Mr. Kearney, the party who caused the accident was found not to have insurance on his vehicle. Responding officer checked Mr. Kearney on Channel 2 for any outstanding warrants, he was then found to have a suspended license since Sept. 6, 2017,” the report states. “Mr. Kearney immediately became verbally aggressive towards responding officer saying, ‘How is my license suspended?”

The report continues that Ortiz called for additional officers because Kearney was acting in an aggressive manner.

“Mr. Kearney bladed his body and balled up his fist while yelling towards officers, responding officer and Sgt. Trevor Niestemski then attempted to grab Mr. Kearney’s arms and place him in handcuffs, at this time Mr. Kearney began to flail his arms away from officers, the report states.

The report continues that more officers arrived and were able to force Kearney against a police car.

“Mr. Kearney then spit on Officer Arroyo’s face and head area,” the report states. It does not state that Arroyo hit Kearney.

In a video of the incident that has been posted on the Internet, four police officers can be seen forcing Kearney face-first onto the hood of a police car as Kearney’s mother is screaming, “Don’t hurt my son, don’t hurt my son.”

At one point Arroyo begins hitting the side of Kearney’s face as other officers hold Kearney’s head against the car.

“Get back,” the female police officer yells to Kearney’s mother who is taking the video. “Or you are next.”

In her report, Arroyo said as officers are still trying to get control of Kearney she notices a woman standing behind the officers screaming.

“Fearing this female would harm officers on the scene I gave her loud verbal commands for female on scene to get back to which she refused to comply and remained stationary,” she stated.

Body cameras, training

Activists renewed their calls to outfit police with body and cruiser cams, require police sensitivity training and establish a civilian review board.

“We need to re-evaluate our positions,” said Ernest Newton, who come December will be back on the City Council. “A lot of this involves how we talk to each other.”

“If I talk to you respectfully, you’re going to answer me the same way,” he said. “If I break the law you have the right to arrest me, you don’t have the right to beat me.”

Newton said he has the support of Councilwoman Anita Martinez and others to outfit police and their cruisers with cameras.

“If we can find $7.9 million to rebuild the ballpark into an amphitheater we can find the money for these cameras,” he said.

Additionally Newton said the “time has come for a civilian review board.”

“We’re not getting any help from the police commission and the police can’t be expected to govern themselves...It’s time that the police have become more transparent.”

The Rev. Anthony Bennett, pastor of Mount Aery Baptist Church, agreed with Newton’s suggestions, but added there is a need for police to undergo diversity and de-escalation training.

“There’s not one magic solution but a synergistic combination of things,” he said. “There has to be a mind-set change among police.”

Bennett, who is co-chair of CONNECT (Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut) said police need to learn “how to control and deescalate a situation as opposed to participating in its escalation.”

But he added CONNECT “would want to see the curriculum and the actual hours devoted” by participants.

Camelle Scott-Mujahid, training officer of CTCORE-Organize Now!, said there “is an obvious pattern of abuse” in Bridgeport as well as other departments across the state.

“There’s just more noise in Bridgeport because the community has organized,” she said.

Scott-Mujahid said she got a first-hand view of Bridgeport police violence during last Thursday’s rally outside police headquarters recognizing the six-month anniversary of the police shooting death of Jason Negron and wounding of his companion Julian Fyffe following a car chase.

“Within 60 seconds police arrested one of our organizers, assaulted another and an officer with a baton threatened our whole group,” she said.

She said the Bridgeport as well as the state needs “a system of police accountability.”

“In the case of Jason’s death you had the State Police handling the investigation and then turning it over to the State’s Attorney’s office,” she said adding that the state’s attorneys rarely find accountability on the part of police.

“We need a system in which police are accountable to the citizens,” she said. “Just because someone is accused of committing a crime doesn’t mean they deserve to be executed or beaten,” she said. “We believe there is still a right to due process.”

©2017 the Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, Conn.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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