NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — New Haven police are speaking out about video that’s gone viral. It shows a police officer throwing down a teenage girl during the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.
The big question, “What provoked it?”
“Cops responded there to a violent riot-type scene,” said Lou Cavaliere, President of the New Haven Police Union. He says the victim in this case, identified by family members as 15-year-old Teandrea Cornelius, was involved in some type of fight inside Buffalo Wild Wings on March 15. He says there was pepper spay and a knife involved. Cavaliere says when she was placed under arrest she had the knife on her, but no pepper spray.
Late Monday afternoon, about 50 protesters stood outside the New Haven Police Department demanding answers. They say no matter what the surrounding circumstances, the scene was unacceptable. Protesters started outside the police headquarters and then went inside asking to speak to Police Chief Dean Esserman. When they were told he’s in Paris, they went back outside and a sergeant came out to talk to them.
“There’s an investigation going on,” the sergeant said. “I’m not privy to that investigation.”
“He should be on desk duty,” yelled a protester.
Mayor Toni Harp placed that officer, Josh Smereczynsky, on desk duty late Tuesday afternoon.
Cavaliere says Smereczynsky did what he was supposed to while arresting Cornelius for third-degree assault, breach of peace, and carrying a dangerous weapon.
“It appeared that while they were walking back towards the street to get out of the crowd she was resisting and pulling away from the officer,” said Cavaliere. “As you can see, her legs were kind of spread apart and her elbows were kind of up in a way that she was trying to get away from the officer.”
“It’s a shame that we have officers on the force that would take the type of action they did against a child,” said Anna Boyd, Cornelius’s grandmother.
“They’re supposed to protect and serve us,” said protest organizer Barbara Fair. “That 15-year-old never should have gotten body slammed, fractured her shoulder, and scarred up her face. For what?”
Cornelius’s family says it has hired an attorney.