Overheated in Sunset Park

Latino Family Claims Cops Brutalized Them Over a Radio

The arrested were treated at Coney Island Hospital, where internal affairs investigators met them to take statements and photographs. Except for Marisol, who was ultimately not charged, the others were arraigned and released by the next evening. The family then took their own photographs of their injuries, recording the deep purple bruises covering Margarita's upper arms, various welts and bruises on all, and reddened areas on young Darrell's face and back.

The Acostas became more outraged last week, when they discovered that the original internal affairs detective had abruptly closed their case without ever following up with them. In a telephone conversation that Marisol invited a reporter to overhear, the detective said, "Our unit only investigates broken bones or stitches, serious physical injuries like that."

"How about my sister's arm? That was broken," Marisol countered.

"If your sister has broken bones. . . . What you need to do is call IAB again," said the detective, ending the call. When Marisol called the bureau again, she was told a closed case could not be reopened. She tried again, and this time someone agreed to open a new case.

Said a skeptical Marisol, "We're doing everything we're supposed to, but they're not." She said the family's financial health is also in question, since Margarita may lose her longtime school guard post if convicted—standard policy, according to the Department of Education human resources office. An aide working with developmentally challenged students, Marisol said she was lucky not to be charged.

Community Board 7 member David Galarza, a longtime Sunset Park resident and activist, says police have a long way to go before they justify their July 4 crackdown on the Acostas. Cops have been "criminalizing everyday behaviors of people in our communities," he says. "It's like the ticket blitz, criminalizing people for sitting outside or playing dominoes. We don't have backyards for people to hang out in."

Galarza said the 72nd Precinct alienated local Latinos two summers ago, after Officer Joseph Gray killed a pregnant Maria Herrera, her toddler son, and her young sister. Gray was driving after hours of heavy drinking with colleagues outside the station house and at a strip club. The NYPD conducted an internal probe based on allegations that cops had tried to cover up Gray's drunkenness, but last October concluded there was no wrongdoing.

"In my opinion, the 72nd Precinct should be bending over backwards to improve relations with the community," says Galarza. Citing complaints not only from the Acostas but also other Latinos, he says, "It seems they're going in the opposite direction."

Gentile was transferred from Chelsea to command the 72nd following the scandal of the Gray killings. This June, police commissioner Raymond Kelly announced a "major investigation" into the improper classification under Gentile of a quarter of the Chelsea precinct's felonies as misdemeanors. The downgrading created the false impression that crime had fallen 7.42 percent, when it had actually soared by 15.7. But there is no indication that Gentile will seek to drop the felony charges against the Acostas.

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