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Officer Punches Woman Who Claims She's Pregnant

11:56 AM, Aug 29, 2013   |    comments
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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (Democrat and Crhonicle) -- Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard said he has seen a YouTube video that shows a city officer arresting and striking a woman on the head, and he is reserving decision on whether the officer's actions were appropriate.

In doing so, Sheppard praised his officers for their restraint.

"I think if you watch the video, what you do see is that all the officers involved used tremendous restraint during the course of this event," Sheppard said in a news conference.

"They were aware of the fact that there was video being produced, and I think since the last two years, we've been very aware that that's the potential for anything that we're involved in," he said, referring to the 2011 video recorded by local activist Emily Good, who was subsequently arrested. That recording went viral, the incident became a national news story, and the charges against Good were later dismissed.

The new video shows Officer Lucas Krull trying to arrest Brenda Hardaway, 21, and handcuff her hands behind her back. City Court documents indicate that as Rochester police officers were arresting Romengeno Hardaway outside 384 Selye Terrace on Tuesday afternoon, Brenda Hardaway intervened.

Family members said the incident started about 4:30 p.m. when Brenda Hardaway was arguing with her mother, Claire Taylor, and nearby residents called police. Romengeno Hardaway, 16, said Wednesday that he had also gotten into a dispute with his uncle about the same time and the situation escalated.

When police arrived, Romengeno Hardaway said, they started to speak with him, and he told them they had no consent to come onto the property.

"At first, he (an officer) grabbed my arm," the Marshall High School junior said. "I understand that I was resisting arrest, but what was the prior? I didn't do anything to get arrested for.

"It was a family dispute and there was no reason for the cops to be there. They had no consent to be on my property. We probably could've handled (our dispute) a little differently."

Sheppard said police had responded to a call for a fight between five or six people, and when they arrived, Romengeno Hardaway was "verbally abusive" to officers, swore at them repeatedly and told them to get off his property.

When officers attempted to arrest Romengeno, Brenda Hardaway intervened and pointed a can of pepper spray at officers, according to court papers.

Taylor said she had the pepper spray, not her daughter, but didn't use it because "I didn't want them (police) to kill my kids."

The video picks up the action from there: Brenda Hardaway is bent over a car parked in the driveway by the side door of the house. Krull is behind her trying to secure her arms when she says, "Get off of me, you're going to kill my baby."

"She didn't want to get handcuffed from behind because she's pregnant and she was afraid of falling forward," Romengeno Hardaway said, adding that his sister is six months pregnant.

She then tells the person capturing the event on camera, who family members identified as a neighbor named Harry, to "record it 'cause we're going to jail."

Brenda Hardaway and Krull continue to struggle and he repeatedly tells her to put her hands behind her back and get on the ground. They move up the driveway toward a front porch, where officers are trying to arrest Romengeno Hardaway, who is struggling and hanging on to an officer's radio.

When Brenda Hardaway and Krull reached the porch, he tells her again to get on the ground and she refuses. He then strikes her in the head and takes her to the ground.

The strike is a distraction technique that officers are taught to disorient someone to make a takedown easier, said Sheppard and Mike Mazzeo, president of the police officers union, the Locust Club, who defended Krull's actions.

"It's not like TV, where you take your handcuffs, go 'click-click' and they're on," Mazzeo said, pointing out it took several minutes to handcuff Brenda Hardaway. Sheppard added that officers trying to make an arrest tend to start to fatigue if the struggle takes too long, and are taught to make such a strike to bring the struggle to a conclusion.

"While the video may cause concern relative to the officer's tactics, I stress that it is important that the incident be viewed in its totality and to withhold judgment until all the facts are known, including those parts of the event that are not shown on the video," he said.

Krull has not been removed from his duties, and an investigation into his actions will commence, Sheppard said.

He said officers are not taught how to deal differently with pregnant women, or how to restrain them differently, and that it is more incumbent upon the person being arrested to protect their own well-being by not resisting.

Brenda Hardaway was taken to Rochester General Hospital, where she was treated and released. Krull, who injured his nose and cut his right elbow, was treated at Highland Hospital and released.

The video captures about two minutes of the struggle, and is about five minutes long.

Brenda Hardaway pleaded not guilty Wednesday in City Court to charges of second-degree assault, a felony, and resisting arrest, unlawful possession of a noxious material and third-degree menacing, all misdemeanors.

Romengeno Hardaway was charged with two counts of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, and was released.

Brenda Hardaway is accused of repeatedly resisting arrest, elbowing Krull in the face and causing an injury to his elbow.

Mid-arraignment, Brenda Hardaway walked away, shaking her head. City Court Judge Melchor Castro instructed her to return until he finished her arraignment. She briefly returned, then pounded her fists on a door as she exited the courtroom. "I didn't even do nothing," she yelled repeatedly. "I've never been in trouble. I didn't do nothing."

After several minutes, she walked back in front of Castro and tearfully apologized for her actions. She then again repeatedly denied the charges.

Castro told her he could not hear her case in court Wednesday, and warned her not to act out Friday morning, when she is scheduled to return.

Brenda Hardaway was remanded to Monroe County Jail in lieu of $7,500 cash bail.

Written By: Jon Hand, Democrat and Chronicle

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