It was every mother's nightmare. Police were at the door demanding to speak to her child and they were pissed. "Why didn't you just tell me it was a fuckin' trans-testicle?" one cop allegedly shouted. "Where is he? She? Whatever it is?"
"It" was Nancy Lamot's transsexual daughter, JoLea. On the night of November 24, Nancy Lamot had called 911 from her Claremont Village home in the Bronx, fearing that JoLea was ill. But when Nancy Lamot led the cops to the bathroom where her 27-year-old daughter stood, chaos ensued.
Though cops tell a different story, witnesses say the police began beating JoLea Lamot, hitting her and slamming her against the wall. Family members tried to protect her. Before the night was over, cops had used Mace, drawn a gun, and assaulted residents; three Lamot family members and a neighbor were taken away in handcuffs all were treated at a hospital and the two arresting cops were treated for "bruising and swelling."
Nancy Lamot claims her family was attacked by a brutal and homophobic cop. For their part, cops say the family locked them inside the apartment and quickly became violent.
Last week, in what is for her a final insult, Nancy Lamot appeared in court, charged with criminally assaulting a police officer a violent felony charge that could land her 15 years in prison.
It all began around 5 p.m. on November 24 when Evanna Black, a friend and also a transsexual, stopped by to visit JoLea.
According to Black, she and Nancy Lamot had trouble rousing JoLea, who was napping. JoLea had taken several Benadryl earlier to fend off an allergy attack, and the women began to worry that JoLea had taken too many or that she was having a reaction to the Benadryl and hormones she was on. Nancy Lamot made a call to 911. In the panic of the moment, she inadvertently referred to JoLea as her "son."
Born "Jimmy," JoLea Lamot only began living her life as a woman a year and a half ago. While Nancy Lamot loves and supports her daughter, now a junior at New Rochelle College, she still stumbles over pronouns from time to time. The lapses are usually insignificant.
By the time EMS arrived, JoLea Lamot was feeling a little better. Though the family thought she was in the bathroom, JoLea had actually wandered out of the apartment to visit friends upstairs. Paramedics said she was probably okay if she was up and about, but that the family should find her just to make sure she wasn't still disoriented.
Moments later, Officers Peter Ungarino and David Gilman arrived, alerted by the 911 call. When Nancy Lamot explained what had happened, the cops offered to help search for JoLea. They left the apartment.
As they walked down the hall, they unknowingly passed JoLea, whom Black was bringing back to the apartment. "Hello, ladies," they said.
As JoLea entered the apartment, Black hung back to tell the officers that JoLea was the person they were looking for and that everything seemed to be okay.
According to Black, Officer Ungarino flipped out at the thought that he'd been duped by the "ladies."
"What is it? A he? A she? An it?" Black says he demanded.
"I said, 'It's a he, but she lives her life as a she.' "
That's when Ungarino began ranting about "fuckin' trans-testicles."
As the officers reentered the apartment, Black followed them, worried that there might be trouble. The cops found JoLea in the bathroom. "What the hell's wrong with you?" Black heard them ask. "You're coming with us."
When they began trying to cuff JoLea, everyone in the apartment Nancy Lamot, her 24-year-old son John Baez, her 13-year-old daughter Mary, a 10-year-old neighbor Veronica Castro, a 47-year-old neighbor Ricardo Perez, and Black grew confused. "Why are you arresting her? She didn't commit any crime," Black said to the cops. JoLea, worried about the silicone surgery she'd had on her breasts, hips, and face, cowered in the corner of the bathroom saying, "Don't touch me."
"They slammed her into the mirror, then the wall, and then she fell into the bathtub. Nancy tried to come to her assistance, yelling to 'Leave her alone, leave her alone.' At that point, one of the officers used his radio to call 'Officer down! Need assistance.' " Black recalled. Frightened, Black called 911, saying, " 'They're attacking my friend. Oh, please help, they're throwing her.' And they said, 'Police officers are already on the scene.' I said, 'I know, they're the ones hurting her.' "
But the cops say they were only trying to help. Describing JoLea as an "emotionally disturbed person," the officers seemed determined to take her in for psychiatric help. Ungarino and Gilman say in court papers that they were locked in the apartment "against their will which did expose both informants [police officers] to serious physical injury, and the defendants [Lamots] prevented the informant's [sic] from attending to an emotionally disturbed person, Jimmy Lamont [JoLea Lamot]." Insisting that the Lamots punched and kicked them, the cops listed their injuries. "They did attack the informants, causing P.O. Ungarino to suffer a strained back along with bruising and swelling, and P.O. Gilman did suffer a bruised shoulder and that both informant's [sic] did experience substantial pain and sufferring [sic] and both informant's [sic] were treated at a local bronx [sic] hospital for their respective injuries."
But others present that night in the apartment dispute this.
Although Michael Spiegel, an attorney for the Lamot family, advised his clients not to speak to the press, 13-year-old Mary Lamot confirms Black's version of events. "After police realized JoLea was a transsexual they went all out of proportion and started handcuffing her," Mary recalls. "They pushed her up against the wall and told my brother and my mother to get away. The cops were yelling and she was telling them to get off her. I seen them spray Mace at my mother and my mother told me to 'get back, get back,' so I just ran into the bedroom. I was crying like crazy."
JoLea was taken to Bronx-Lebanon for psychiatric evaluation. (She was released the next day after talking to a psychiatrist.) Nancy Lamot, her son John, and her neighbor Ricardo Perez were arrested for "gang assault," "assault on a police officer," "resisting arrest," "unlawful imprisonment," and "harassment in the second degree."
Queried about whether there was any evidence of police misconduct in this case, Steven Reed, director of public information for the Bronx D.A.'s office, would say only that they were investigating the matter. "We just became aware of the allegations against the officers last week," Reed explained, "and the entire matter is under review."
Spiegel, who will be filing a civil rights suit on behalf of the Lamots, says the cops' version of events is "absurd" and points out that police found no weapons or drugs in the apartment indeed, no reason for the Lamots to lock them in the apartment and proceed with an unprovoked attack. "This is a family that called 911 for medical help," he said, "and ended up being attacked by a police officer in a fit of homophobic panic."
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