Thursday, September 6, 2007

Wichita NAACP files a formal DOJ complaint over arrests in Old Town

NAACP files complaint over arrests
BY HURST LAVIANA

The Wichita Branch NAACP filed a complaint Wednesday with the U.S. Justice Department on behalf of two Hispanics who said they were manhandled by Wichita police after leaving an Old Town club.

Adriana Molina, 22, said her arm was jerked behind her back by an officer June 24 as she stood in the street and talked to a friend who was in an idling car.

Luis De la Rosa, 27, said he was thrown to the ground and shocked three times with a Taser by officers who approached him as he sat on a bench July 8.

NAACP president Kevin Myles said the incidents occurred during arrests two weeks apart as each was leaving Latin night celebrations at America's Pub. "We believe the Wichita Police Department is a great organization, but it doesn't do a good job of policing itself," Myles said at a news conference.

He said he was asking the Justice Department to look for "a pattern of heavy-handed policing with all minority populations." Wichita police spokesman Gordon Bassham said departmental policy prevented him from commenting on the cases.

Molina said the streets of Old Town were filled with cars as the clubs were closing the night she was arrested and jailed. She said she was talking to a friend who was stuck in the traffic when officers trying to clear the street approached. "They yanked my arm behind me pretty hard," she said. "Before I knew what happened, I was being drug to a police car."

She said she didn't understand why she was arrested.

"I believe I'm a good citizen," she said. "I've never been in any trouble. I never had any problems with the Wichita Police Department.... Neither one of us has ever been charged with anything." Molina said the arresting officer claimed that she slapped him and resisted arrest. "I wouldn't intentionally hit anybody, especially a police officer," she said.

De la Rosa said he was talking on a cell phone when an officer approached and shined a flashlight in his eyes. He said that when he instinctively shielded his eyes from the light, the officer told him, "Don't put your hands on an officer." Myles said the officer threw De la Rosa to the ground and knelt on top of him.

De la Rosa said he was unable to comply with the officer's demand that he place his hands behind his back because one arm was pinned under his body. He said the officer on top of him told a second officer to use a Taser. During the incident, De la Rosa said, he kept thinking, "Man, are you serious about this?... I didn't know what was going on."

Molina and De la Rosa were both charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest.

This is the second time this year the local NAACP has asked the Justice Department to investigate an arrest by Wichita police.

In April, it asked the agency to investigate the arrest of a 49-year-old black woman who said she was beaten, kicked and shocked with a Taser by a Wichita officer who stopped her for driving a car with a burned-out taillight. Myles said that investigation continues.

Reprinted from the Wichita Eagle online
Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com.
© 2007 Wichita Eagle and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.kansas.com

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