By Chris Hoenig
Three Rochester, N.Y., high-school basketball players got to spend Thanksgiving with their familiesbut only after posting $200 bail each following their arrests for waiting for a school bus.
Police were monitoring a business on Main Street last week because of past complaints from a local business owner about teens loitering in front of his store. Daequon Carelock, Wan’Tauhjs Weathers and Raliek Redd, all student-athletes at Edison Tech, arrived and waited on the sidewalk in front of the storethe designated central meeting point for their team, arranged by their coachfor a bus to take them to a basketball scrimmage.
Officers then approached and reportedly asked the boys to leave. “We tried to tell them that we were waiting for the bus,” Weathers said. “We weren’t catching a city bus, we were catching a yellow bus. He didn’t care. He arrested us anyways.”
“We didn’t do nothing,” Redd added. “We was just trying to go to our scrimmage.”
Jacob Scott, the boys’ basketball coach and a district guidance counselor, arrived while the teens were being handcuffed and tried to explain to officers that they were being picked up and he would supervise them. Instead, he said, he was threatened with arrest himself.
“[The police officer] goes on to say, ‘If you don’t disperse, you’re going to get booked as well,'” Scott said. “I said, ‘Sir, I’m the adult. I’m their varsity basketball coach. How can you book me What am I doing wrong Matter of fact, what are these guys doing wrong’
“One of the police officers actually told me, if he had a big enough caravan, he would take all of us downtown,” Scott added.
While the police report clears the boys of using abusive or foul language, they were still charged with disorderly conduct for blocking “pedestrian traffic while standing on a public sidewalk…preventing free passage of citizens walking by and attempting to enter and exit a store…Your complainant gave several lawful clear and concise orders for the group to disperse and leave the area without compliance.”
The city police department’s website advertises its “Policing in the Spirit of Service” initiative, which calls for “demonstrating courtesy, professionalism and ethics.” But it’s that professionalism that’s now being questioned by the teens’ families.
“They are not bad kids. They are awesome boys,” Redd’s mother, Crystal Chapman, said. “They all have good grades in school. I don’t want them to be profiled at all.”
“It’s a catastrophe. These young men were doing nothing wrong, nothing wrong. They did exactly what they were supposed to do and still they get arrested,” Scott said. “I’m speaking to the officers with dignity, and still and yetthey see me get treated like nothing.”
At least one school-board member is calling for an investigation into the conduct of the police officers on that sidewalk. “I’m very concerned about a pattern of young people being abused by police authority,” Rochester City School Board member Mary Adams said. “To me, this seems like a really clear case, part of a pattern.
“I think the charges should be immediately dropped,” she added. “And I think the district attorney’s office should be stepping in and looking at these kinds of matters.”
Less than a week after the arrests, prosecutors agreed the boys were innocent.”After reviewing the facts associated with these arrests, we have decided to dismiss the charges in the interest of justice,” Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley announced.