Simmering tensions between the family of a teenager beaten to death at Rikers Island and correction officers erupted today at the Bronx courthouse.
As an arraignment for several inmates charged in the case ended, more than 30 correction officers confronted members of Christopher Robinson’s family in the hallway.
Three correction officers are charged with using inmates to act as enforcers in a teenage unit at the Robert N. Davoren Center. Their indictments have caused ripples of anger among correction officers. The officers showed up yesterday in force to protest the indictments.
“They were saying, ‘you’re here to convict the wrong people,'” Robinson’s mother Charnell tells the Voice. “They were saying the correction officers didn’t do anything.”
Several Robinson family members and their pastor, Wilbur Jones, said the officers shoved a couple of the male members of the family, directed curse words at them, and took out their handcuffs, threatening to arrest them. A group of court officers intervened and escorted the family members away from the jail guards.
“This is absurd,” Charnell said. “If the officers had just done their job, none of us would be here in court today. I can’t for the life of me understand why I have to be harassed, while I’m dealing with the loss of my child.”
“Officers who should be upholding the law are acting like animals,” Jones added. “They talked about her son like he was a criminal.”
The Voice is awaiting returned calls for comment from court administrators, the correction officers union, and a spokesman with the Department of Correction.
UPDATE: A spokesman for the
Correction Officers Benevolent Association downplayed the seriousness of the incident. “My understanding
is that it was a very, very minor incident at best, and we can’t even verify
that correction officers were involved,” spokesman Michael Skelly said. “Words were
exchanged between one individual and a family member. It was nothing more than