Family files complaint on Cape police

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

An injured Cape Girardeau police sergeant was back on the job Tuesday, but some bystanders at a Fourth of July altercation involving him claim police used excessive force and uttered racial slurs and other pejoratives.

A group of relatives who live in Cape Girardeau and St. Louis have filed a complaint with the Cape Girardeau Police Department claiming police unjustifiably used Tasers and pepper spray, pointed their weapons at unarmed people and used the N-word while telling black residents to go back inside their homes after the 10 p.m. incident.The event began with a report that fireworks were being shot at a house in the 400 block of South Hanover Street. Police say an attempt to question three juveniles about fireworks turned into a pursuit, and that the officer handcuffing one of the juveniles was approached by three adults and was struck in the head with a metal object.

Those who filed the complaint allege that their rights were violated during the investigation that ensued.

Police chief Steven Strong said the department is investigating the claims by Nicole Williams, 22, a Webster University student in St. Louis; her mother, Susan Williams, of 428 Hanover St.; Susan's sister, Mary Williams, and boyfriend Kelvin Haynes, both of St. Louis. The St. Louis relatives were visiting Cape Girardeau to celebrate the holiday.

Strong said Tuesday that he hadn't seen the complaint.

"I'm still piecing it together," he said. "We always investigate allegations like these ... I never heard or saw anything like that. But I'm not going to say it didn't happen. I hope it didn't happen. It would be a violation of our policy."

Police say pepper spray was used on two of those who made the complaint -- Mary and Susan Williams -- because they were interfering with the arrest of a relative, Benjamin A. Jones, 21, of 140 S. Henderson Ave. Police say he was making a disturbance and turned out to be wanted on a St. Louis warrant for absconding from parole.

Strong said at least some of the people involved had been drinking.

At least one witness said police acted professionally.

"Police handled it very calmly," said Brad Sample, who lives on Good Hope Street near the 400 block of South Hanover Street. "The people on the street were very hostile, very mouthy for the most part. But the police were nothing but professional in a very hostile situation."

According to police accounts, patrolman Adam Glueck responded to the report of people shooting fireworks toward a house in the 400 block of South Hanover Street. When he arrived, he saw a large group of people and called for backup. Sgt. Kevin Orr responded.

Both men got out of their vehicles and saw three male juveniles who each had open backpacks stuffed with fireworks, said police patrolman Jason Selzer. The youths ran when approached by the officers, Selzer said.

"They were minors, and they couldn't even shoot fireworks off without adult supervision. They just wanted to question them."

When the two officers gave chase, Orr was able to grab one young man. As Glueck chased the other two, Orr was placing the one he captured under arrest. As Orr was handcuffing the juvenile, three men approached and hit Orr over the head with some kind of metal object, Selzer said. It could have been a hammer, Selzer said, but no one knows because police did not recover the weapon.

Giving up his pursuit of the two other juveniles, Glueck returned and saw the three men who allegedly attacked Orr and chased them. They escaped and had not been apprehended as of Tuesday night.

While Glueck was chasing the men, a crowd of as many as 50 people started closing in on the injured Orr, making threats and yelling obscenities, Selzer said. That's when Orr drew his gun and told the crowd to stay back.

"They told Kevin that they were going to kill him," Strong said. "If that's the case, it was appropriate that he drew his weapon."

The crowd dispersed as backup officers from the Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Scott City police departments, officers from the Department of Public Safety at Southeast Missouri State University and deputies from the Cape Girardeau and Scott County sheriff's departments began arriving on the scene.

Nicole Williams said Jones is her cousin and the son of Mary Williams. She said her family came outside after they saw police lights. They say that's when they heard police yelling racial slurs. Nicole Williams said Jones got on his cell phone and tried to call the Cape Girardeau Sheriff's Department to report the police.

Police say Jones was yelling and screaming, which drew their attention. Police tried to take him into custody. Selzer said that's when Mary and Susan Williams tried to interfere with the arrest by "screaming and yelling." They went into the house after police shot pepper spray in their direction, Selzer said.

Jones resisted arrested and then was Tasered, police said.

Two 16-year-old males, including the one Orr apprehended, were cited into juvenile court. Orr was treated with a few stitches in the head and was expected back on the job at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Strong said the investigation will be completed as quickly as possible.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson said the assault on police officers won't be tolerated. "What's going on in that area is absolutely unacceptable," he said at Tuesday night's council meeting.

"It's upsetting to me that some individuals think they don't have to follow the law," the mayor said.

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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