By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes says he won't press criminal charges against police officers who allegedly beat a black motorist and her paraplegic fiancé after they stopped the couple for a traffic violation last December.
But, strangely, after clearing the officers, Hynes referred the case to the pro-NYPD Civilian Complaint Review Board, which will determine whether misconduct charges against the officers are substantiated or unfounded.
Hynes, however, will prosecute Bernadette Jeremiah and Elize Pierre-Paul for allegedly assaulting the officers, as well as for harassment, criminal possession of a weapon, obstructing governmental administration, and resisting arrest. Prosecutors say that an altercation ensued after Jeremiah ran a red light. But Jeremiah denies the charges, adding that she was a victim of the racial profiling phenomenon known as "driving while black." The couple is due back in Criminal Court in Brooklyn on June 28.
Their story remains consistent extremely at odds with Hynes's findings absolving the officers of criminal wrongdoing. What allegedly happened to Jeremiah and Pierre-Paul, contend police-brutality watchdogs, is a classic example of the "rude cop" scenario that often escalates into violence in which African Americans usually wind up the losers.
A stentorian voice boomed over the loudspeaker of a patrol car that had tailgated a gray 1987 Cadillac as it pulled out of an Amoco gas station at Eastern Parkway and Howard Avenue in Brownsville last December 1.
"Pull over!" Jeremiah remembers the voice, sounding more brassy and irritated, roaring a second time. Jeremiah, a 46-year-old West Indian beautician on her way to pick up her nephew from school, turned to her fiancé, Pierre-Paul, and insisted that the cops could not be summoning her since she was not driving recklessly, and neither of them had been in trouble with the law.
"Gray Cadillac!" the voice thundered. Jeremiah pulled to the curb. She says two white cops approached; one positioned himself on the driver's side, the other on the passenger's side. Both had their hands on their gun belts.
When one of the cops demanded Jeremiah's license and registration, she protested, "What did I do?"
"Give me the license!" the cop barked.
"But why are you checking my license?" argued Jeremiah.
"That's the law!" she says the cop replied. "Give me the fucking license!"
Shocked by the officer's attitude, Jeremiah chided him for using obscene language. But sensing that he was growing impatient, she handed him the documents.
"Instead of taking them, he grabbed my wrist, and he wouldn't let me go," she recalls. She says the cop warned her that if she didn't "get the fuck out of the car," he would arrest her. Pierre-Paul, 25, felt helpless.
Diagnosed with polio as a child, the son of Haitian immigrants is unable to move his legs and relies on Jeremiah to get around. He broke into tears as Jeremiah screamed in pain after the cop allegedly grabbed her.
"Why does he have to twist her arm like that?" Pierre-Paul pleaded.
Jeremiah claims that her fiancé's rebuke angered the cop, who sucker-punched Pierre-Paul in the face, grabbed him by his collar, and attempted to yank him from the car. "Get outta the fucking car!" the cop kept shouting.
"He can't walk!" Jeremiah said. "He gotta use crutches!"
"I said, 'I'm not gonna open the door unless I see a negro cop come over here,' " Pierre-Paul recalled in an interview with NY1's Adele Sammarco. "There was a big one [white cop]," Pierre-Paul added in halting English. "He said, 'You think you're a king, motherfucker?' And while he pulling me, the other one keep punching me in my head. . . . "
Despite the vise-like grip the cop had on her arm, Jeremiah says she managed to reach into the back seat with her other hand to retrieve the crutches. "But they pulled them away from him and threw them back in the back seat."
Pierre-Paul also told Sammarco that a cop asked, "The punch is not enough for you, motherfucker?" and sprayed him with Mace. The cop then allegedly dragged him from the car and threw him on the ground.
Backup cops arrived and, according to Jeremiah, joined their fellow officers in "kicking and punching and slamming" Pierre-Paul's head against the roadway.
"Please don't do that to him, he can't walk!" Jeremiah pleaded. She says two black cops also responded. One, a female, "kicked me, punched me, grabbed me by my ponytail, and slammed my head [against the ground] until I nearly shit on myself."
Handcuffed and hoisted from the ground by the officers, Jeremiah looked frantically for Pierre-Paul. "I saw them punching and kicking my fiancé," she charges. "I was screaming so loud that the female cop took me and slammed my head against the trunk of my car."
Pierre-Paul said that after the cops wrestled him to the ground, they rubbed his face in dog shit. Fearing it would get in his mouth, Pierre-Paul renewed his appeal for one of the black cops to intervene. "Somebody, please call a negro cop to come and save me!" he pleaded.
The female officer responded. "She come and she keep saying to me, 'Motherfucker! Get off the floor!' She kicked me five times in my face," Pierre-Paul lamented. Still, the cops had not realized that Pierre-Paul was disabled.
"Why the fuck won't you get up?" Jeremiah remembers one officer asking Pierre-Paul.
"Please don't beat me anymore!" Pierre-Paul begged. "I am paralyzed from my waist down!"
Reportedly, that declaration finally jolted the officers. "Oh shit!" Jeremiah says one cop remarked. "We just jumped a paralyzed person. We're gonna be in deep trouble."
Jeremiah says the cops shoved them into the back seat of a patrol car and took them to the 73rd Precinct. According to Jeremiah, one cop said they'd pulled the suspects over for running a red light, but "they freaked out" and had to be restrained. She insists the cops beat them.
"The story is a lie," an NYPD spokesperson told NY1. The next night, they were arraigned in Criminal Court and finally released.
According to a prosecutor's complaint filed in Criminal Court, all Officer John Marciano did was stop Jeremiah's car for running a red light. Marciano, prosecutors claim, approached her and courteously asked that she show him her license and registration, but Jeremiah "refused to comply and attempted to drive away."
When the officer tried to arrest her, the complaint alleges, Pierre-Paul attempted to pull him into the vehicle and threw punches at him. Jeremiah "flail[ed] her arms" and "punched and kicked at" Marciano "and attempted to strike" him with Pierre-Paul's cane, causing the officer to "sustain a laceration to the finger [and] suffer substantial pain."
Jeremiah and Pierre-Paul intend to sue the city. "Why the hell would I try to beat cops with a cane, and they have guns?" Jeremiah points out. "Am I out of my cotton-pickin' mind?"