After police raided a college party at a downtown club, Seth Bannon and Steven Winter spotted their friend in handcuffs outside on the curb. Bannon pulled out his phone to call an acquaintance in City Hall. Winter tried to ask a cop a question. Suddenly, they found themselves arrested, too—for disorderly conduct and trespassing.
Making cell phone calls out in public in the vicinity of police, it appears, might be a crime in New Haven, too.
At least that’s the story Bannon and Winter shared on Monday. They said they were wrongly arrested without cause on Oct. 2, in the aftermath of a police action at the Elevate Lounge on Crown Street.
An arrest report released to the Independent offers a different story. Officer Yelena Borisova wrote that Bannon and Winter refused to obey multiple orders to move away and were obstructing the flow of pedestrian and car traffic.
The details of their arrests and of a fifth student—previously unreported—add a new dimension to the unfolding tale of a downtown raid that has turned into an explosive and closely watched case of alleged police overreaction and abuse of civil liberties in the tinderbox of the Crown Street club district.
Bannon, a Harvard senior, is taking time off from school to start a software business with Winter and another Yalie. Winter is a senior philosophy major at Yale who coincidentally worked for Ned Lamont’s gubernatorial campaign as a “tracker,” charged with videotaping the every move of Dan Malloy, the opposing candidate. (Click the play arrow to see the camera turned on him in a file video.)
Bannon’s and Winter’s tale is the latest narrative to emerge from a controversial Oct. 2 police action at the Elevate Lounge, where two Yale colleges were holding a dance. The incident resulted in five arrests, followed by an outpouring of complaints about alleged verbal and physical abuse on the part of New Haven cops.
During the raid, police forbade students from using their cellphones, and beat and Tased one student—Bulldogs tight end Jordan Jefferson—who allegedly disobeyed that command. Video from the incident shows police shouting “Who’s next?” and “Anybody else?” after subduing someone, possibly Jefferson.
Police said the inspection was a routine part of “Operation Nightlife,” the crackdown on clubs in the city’s bar district that was prompted by a downtown shootout in September. According to police, Elevate was dangerously overcrowded and police—including two SWAT cops and state liquor control agents—went into the club to check IDs and count occupants.
Three Yale students were arrested inside Elevate: Jefferson, Zach Fuhrer, and a Spanish Yale student. (Read about Jefferson’s and Fuhrer’s arrests here. Read about the other arrest below.) Bannon and Winter were arrested outside.
The raid on Elevate is one of four recent policing incidents that have resulted in internal investigations of possible cop misconduct. Police are looking into a Crown Street arrest on Sept. 10, the ticketing of a motorcyclist on Sept. 23, the arrest of a Quinnipiac Student on Sept. 25, and the Elevate raid on Oct. 2.
Aside from their association with Operation Nightlife, a common thread running through several of these incidents is the involvement of cell phones or cell phone cameras. It’s an important element in the arrests of Bannon and Winter as well.
It was a cell phone text message that brought the two to the corner of College and Crown Streets early in the morning of Oct. 2. And it was a cellphone, they said, that resulted in Bannon’s arrest, followed closely by Winter’s.
Their arrests have prompted the two to join activists seeking change in the police department. They’ve started a group called Citizens For Policing Reform. They and some New Haven social justice activists to plan a Saturday march. They said they have four requests: Police should accept civilian complaint forms by mail or email, not just in person. The city should start a pilot program of cameras mounted on cops. Police should use Tasers that record video and audio every time the weapons are deployed. And the Civilian Review Board should be reformed so that it has actual power.
“Get Out Of Here”
Here’s what led to their arrests, according to Bannon and Winter:
Around 2 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2, the two were at a dinner party a few blocks from Elevate. They got a text message from a mutual friend saying that their buddy Fuhrer had been arrested at the club. Bannon and Winter left the party and headed down to investigate.
They found Fuhrer and Jefferson sitting in handcuffs on the curb outside Elevate surrounded by about 10 cops. Jefferson looked terrible. He had fresh blood on his face and looked like he’d just been beaten, Bannon said.
“The whole right side of his face was a throbbing red contusion,” Winter said. “It was really shocking, especially because Zach was just Zach, he was totally fine.”
Jefferson couldn’t seem to hold himself up and was slumped over on Fuhrer.
Bannon and Winter stayed about 25 or 30 feet away from the cops, farther away than the closest officer. Police had closed off the street to traffic. There were only a few people around.
Bannon, who grew up in Guilford, pulled out his phone and called an attorney friend of his family to get some advice. The lawyer advised him to keep his distance and said Bannon might have an opportunity to inquire where Fuhrer was going to be taken and how to help with his bail.
A cop approached Bannon, asked what he was doing. Bannon said Fuhrer was his friend. The cop replied, “He’s going to jail. Do you want to ‘expletive’ join him?” according to Bannon, who declined to say the expletive.
Bannon said no.
“That get the ‘expletive’ out of here,” the cop said, according to Bannon.
Bannon started walking away and pulled out his phone. He started calling someone he knows in City Hall. He declined to say whom.
The cop asked Bannon whom he was calling. Bannon told him the name.
The cop said “Yeah?” and grabbed his phone, according to Bannon. Another officer put Bannon in handcuffs.
“I was just like, ‘Whoa, what just happened?’ Floored,” Winter said. He turned to another officer and said, “Excuse me, why is he being arrested?”
“You better get out of here,” the cop replied, according to Winter.
Winter started backing up, raising his hands to show he wasn’t a threat. “OK, sure,” he said. “Can you explain to me why he’s being arrested?”
Another cop, behind Winter, grabbed his hands and put him in handcuffs.
“That was it,” Winter said. “I got arrested for asking a question.”
Winter and Bannon were seated on a curb and held for 45 minutes before they signed a promise to appear in court and were released. Police charged them with disorderly conduct and trespassing in the third degree.
Brannon said when he tried to read all the conditions of his promise to appear before signing it, an officer grabbed his arm and said, “That’s it, you’re going to jail.” He was forced to reach back as he was pulled away and swipe a signature across the page in order to avoid arrest.
Winter and Bannon both said they were wrongly arrested. They were compliant and non-threatening with police during the whole incident, they said.
“I was putting them in no danger. All I did was ask a question,” Winter said.
“When the officer ordered me to leave, I immediately began to do so,” Bannon said. “I broke no law that night.”
Cops: They Refused To Move
A police report offers a different account. Read it here.
Here’s what happened, according to a report prepared by Office Borisova:
The report is dated Oct. 2, 2010 It begins, “On September 2, 2010 at approximately 0234 hours…”
Borisova wrote that she and Officer Rob Strickland were working the “bar detail” under the supervision of Sgt. David Guliuzza, clearing the Crown Street area as the clubs closed. They were “trying to keep pedestrian flow moving when two individuals, later identified as Seth Bannon and Steve Winter, stopped in the middle of the street,” Borisova wrote. “We repeatedly asked them to move but they refused. Both individuals were standing at the exit of Crown Street garage impeding the flow of pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic.”
That’s the extent of report’s explanation of the arrests. The final two paragraphs of the report state that Bannon and Winter were arrested, list the charges, and note that the two signed promised to appear.
Winter said he’s mystified by the police account. He said the street was not crowded with pedestrians, that police had closed off traffic and no cars were on the street. They were not obstructing anything, he said.
He and Bannon both said they feel that they were mistreated.
They said they recognize that what happened to them is insignificant in the grand scheme of life in New Haven, but that they’ve come to see that larger injustices happen frequently in New Haven without being recognized.
“The way I look at this, this kind of police misconduct has been going on in this city for God knows how long and nobody really took notice because it was a lot of people who are underrepresented,” Winter said. “But when Yale gets stepped on, everybody takes notice. ... I would hope some broad change comes out of this.”
“People say this is Yale getting a taste of the real world, and that’s definitely true, but nobody should have to deal with this,” Winter said.
“While I sympathize with the incredibly difficult position New Haven police officers are in, nothing excuses the sort of behavior I witnessed that night,” Bannon said.
The two said they would like to help reform the police department. To that end, they’ve formed Citizens For Policing Reform. They’ve banded together with local activists like Unidad Latina En Accion, My Brother’s Keeper, and CopWatch New Haven. Together, they are planning a march for Saturday to call for a stronger Civilian Review Board.
In the meantime, Bannon and Winter are fighting the charges against them in court. Winter said they were offered a deal to have their charges reduced to creating a public disturbance, but they would have had to admit guilt. They rejected the deal.
“Steve and my case will get dismissed. I have no doubt about that,” Bannon said. “There’s just nothing there.”
Agent Wallet Complained
In response to a request from the Independent, the city released a report Friday of the fifth arrest associated with the raid on Elevate.
The 21-year-old Yale student from Spain, declined to comment on his arrest.
A report prepared by Officer Angelo Mauriello offers an explanation of his arrest.
Here’s what happened, according to the report:
At 2 a.m., during the inspection of Elevate Lounge, Sgt. Guliuzza told Mauriello to investigate a complaint by state liquor control agent Barry Wallet.
Wallet told Mauriello that a student had approached him as he was conducting his inspection of Elevate. Wallet asked for the student’s ID. He refused. Wallet asked again.
The student “handed over his identification and then attempted to grab it back,” Mauriello wrote. That’s what prompted Wallet’s complaint.
The student was arrested for disorderly conduct, handcuffed, and taken to the police station.