Red Hook Boys Spent Halloween Night Handcuffed In A Carroll Gardens Police Precinct
On Halloween night, a group of young teens and tweens from the Red Hook Houses were trick-or-treating in Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill. The neighborhoods are a popular spot for a lot of children, and that means a lot of candy, said one 14-year-old who goes by the nickname Dibo.
Around 8 p.m., Dibo and his friend Anthony, 15, had joined up with a group of other kids when they noticed they were being followed by a couple of uniformed police officers. Dibo didn’t yet know it, but earlier in the night another teen, a 15-year-old boy, reported being punched, kicked and robbed of his cell phone in Carroll Park. (Gothamist is withholding the minors’ last names.)
That report would lead to three of Dibo’s friends, all black and one as young as 12, taken into police custody and handcuffed for hours without being able to talk to their parents. They were ultimately released after midnight with no robbery charges against them.
As Dibo and Anthony tell it, their group was crossing Court Street, a commercial drag, toward Cobble Hill Cinemas when multiple police cars rushed toward them from different directions, including at least one car being driven the wrong way. Dibo already had a bag heavy with candy while Anthony was just getting started on trick-or-treating, he said.
Some of the cop cars were unmarked. Several officers — about a dozen, according to witnesses — jumped out. A few of the officers were in plain clothes. Dibo and Anthony admitted they ran, along with other kids.
“The way that they jumped out of the car — everybody was scared,” Dibo said.
Anthony said that officers had their handcuffs out and ready when they sprang from the car.
“It was dramatic for all of us,” Anthony said. “Nothing like that ever happened before.”
The Halloween police encounter came a few weeks after NYPD officers used aggressive tactics against a group of teenagers at the Jay Street subway station. One episode, caught on video, shows one police officer punching two teenagers. Advocates and elected officials openly questioned the appropriateness of the officers’ actions and called for more deescalation training.
A police spokeswoman, Sergeant Jessica McCrorie, said that officers in Cobble Hill, part of the 76th Precinct, had been canvassing the area on Halloween night after the robbery report. Robberies citywide increased by 17 percent in October, according to the NYPD, with the largest uptick in the Bronx. A large driver of those robberies, police officials said this week, happened on the street by young teens.
“Police observed a group of teens in the vicinity and when they approached the group, the group fled and discarded a wooden baseball bat, a knife and backpacks which were recovered by police,” McCrorie said, without specifying whether the blade was illegal or not. “Several males were stopped.”
“They were yelling and their flashlights were all in our eyes,” Dibo said.
At one point an officer pulled a cell phone out of the 14-year-old’s bag and asked Dibo to unlock it. Dibo refused, after pointing out to the officer that his own photo was on the lockscreen.
“I just felt like I shouldn’t have to open my phone if my face was on it already,” he explained.
“The cops had like three different sides to the story,” Dibo said. “We asked them, ‘What did we do?’ And one cop was telling us — oh, we robbed somebody. One cop was telling us we threw coffee at a car. One cop was telling us we insulted someone.”
“They didn’t say anything to us about a cell phone robbery,” Anthony added. “I think that’s why they stopped us — because they thought we did the robbery. But it wasn’t us.”
Officers took three of the boys into custody, including Anthony, plus two other boys ages 14 and 12. Dibo was not one of them.
“I don’t really know why they let me go,” Dibo said. “They didn’t really tell me anything. They didn’t tell me why they stopped me. They didn’t explain anything to us.”
Anthony and the two other boys were each handcuffed and put in separate police cars. At one point, Anthony, from the back seat, yelled out the open window for someone to call his mother. Shaniece Raymond, a witness who stopped to monitor the encounter, promised to call. She said as Anthony was yelling out the number, a police officer in plain clothes stood between them and yelled at her not to interfere.
“They were being aggressive,” Raymond said. “An officer was screaming in my face.”
Anthony was then brought to the 76th Precinct station house, along with the other two boys, where he remained handcuffed to a bench for more than three hours.
Anthony’s mother, Tiffany Aloyo, said she never heard from police about her son’s whereabouts. She said she learned of her son’s arrest when Raymond called her.
When Aloyo got to the precinct, she said she was not allowed to see or talk to Anthony. She waited with the parents of the other two boys, neither of whom had been contacted by police at that point either, Aloyo said. Instead, the parents heard about the incident from the boys’ friends.
“First they were saying that someone was robbed for a cell phone,” said Aloyo. “Then, they really wasn’t talking. They really wasn’t giving us no information. They just said they was waiting for the juvenile system to give them the okay to release them to us.”
Aloyo said that when Anthony was released, police officers told her there were no charges. They left the precinct with no paperwork — no police report, no business card, no record of charges. Another parent, who did not want to be interviewed on the record, confirmed that he did not receive any documentation about the incident either.
The NYPD said it sought a misdemeanor charge of “obstructing governmental administration” against three of the boys, and said the boys’ parents were notified after they were arrested.
Aloyo said she had not heard about the charge. The city’s Law Department, which handles juvenile cases, would not comment on whether it would pursue charges against the boys.
The NYPD has not made any other arrests for the cell phone robbery.
The day after the incident, Anthony didn’t go to school. He had gotten home late, his wrist was sore and he was traumatized, Aloyo said.
For her part, Aloyo said she was upset. She suspects that the boys were racially profiled. But she hinted that a police encounter with young black men could have ended differently.
“I’m just glad my baby is safe,” she said.