George Long is looking for more than having “interfering” charges dismissed against him Tuesday. He’s looking for a state cop to be investigated for allegedly beating him up for no reason.
Long, a carpenter from Newhallville, has a fifth court appearance scheduled in state Superior Court on an interfering charge. It dates back to July 20, when police came to his door on Newhall Street to ask him to identify a man they’d arrested outside. He’s had his case continued four times because he refused to accept a plea deal for a crime he said he didn’t commit.
The real crime, say Long and his family and a local civil rights group, was committed by a state police officer who punched, knocked down, and kicked Long. The cop claims that Long “shoved” him and then resisted arrest.
Members of New Haven’s People Against Police Brutality plan to accompany Long to court Tuesday, hold a rally on his behalf, then accompany him to city police headquarters as he files a request for an internal investigation into the incident. He also plans to file a state police misconduct complaint.
“We’re not rolling over,” Long’s wife, Tanya Smith, a community activist who helped organize Tuesday’s protest rally, declared in an interview at their home Monday. “We’re not laying down. We’re not going to take it.”
Long and Smith live in a newly renovated Habitat for Humanity home with a white picket fence at the corner of Newhall and Huntington streets. Smith is the neighborhood’s Democratic Ward Committee co-chairwoman. Long, who’s 50, works as a union carpenter, these days on the Middletown natural gas plant that exploded last year.
They were inside their house at 7:30 p.m. on July 20, preparing to light the candles on the cake for their son Brian’s 10th birthday, when police came to the door. They asked Long to come outside.
A statewide narcotics task force team, composed of state and local cops, had just stopped a man driving on Huntington Street. They smelled marijuana in the car. The man admitted someone had smoked marijuana in the car. The man also said (correctly) that he is the nephew of George Long, who happens to live on that corner.
An officer directed Long to a group of cops standing at the intersection. Long approached state police Det. Mark Wiener. He asked Wiener if he wanted to speak with him.
At that point, the official police version and Long’s version diverge.
The Cop’s Side
Here’s what Wiener wrote in a incident report:
Long “appeared to be irritated” that cops needed to speak with him. “He grabbed the exterior of his jean shorts pockets to which I noted a hard bulge protruding from his left front pocket. I asked Long if he had any weapon on him to which he stated ‘No I Don’t’ and went to grab his pocket again. I told him not to reach into his pockets and also explained that to him that I was just going to pat him down real quick for my own safety to ensure he didn’t have any weapons. I told Long not to move as I attempted to cricle around to his back side to which he pivoted around and again reached towards his pocket.”
Wiener ordered Long to “stay still.” Instead, when the detective “reached to do an exterior pat of his pocket ... Long swiped my hand away from his pocket and shouted to me ‘don’t fucking touch me man.’ I grabbed his arm and told him to stay still at which time Long shoved me and told me to get off him. I pushed Long back and told him to get on the ground at which time a brief struggle ensued to get Long on the ground as I shouted to him to get back and get on the ground.”
Fellow cops tried to handcuff Long, who “repeatedly resisted and at one point attempted to stand up,” Wiener wrote. “He got into a push up position and attempted walking his hands back towards his feet to stand up at which time I used my right leg to sweep his right arm out from under him.”
The cops handcuffed Long. Wiener acknowledged in the report that “the bulge in Long’s pocket turned out to be his cell phone, a lighter and some other plastic items.”
Wiener was one of 11 law-enforcement agents honored last November for busting a “sophisticated marijuana cultivation operation” in Canterbury, Conn. In 2008, a state appellate court upheld a decision to deny a claim from a man arrested by Wiener that Wiener had illegally patted him down.
The Other Side
Long said Monday that he came outside more than willing to identify his nephew when the police came to his door on July 20. When the state cop said the city police needed to talk to me, but were busy at that moment, Long said, he told the cop that he would go inside and that the officer should knock on his door when he’s ready.
“That’s when [Wiener] asked me what I have in my pocket.”
Here’s what happened next, in Long’s telling:
Long: “What do you mean, ‘What do I have in my pocket?’ I have my wallet and my cell phone.”
Wiener: “I’d like to see what’s in your pockets.”
Long: “Why? You can’t check my pockets.” I’m not under arrest, Long said he noted to the officer. I’m not a suspect in a crime. “I didn’t come out of my house to be pat down.”
At no point did he “shove” Wiener or in any way resist beyond insisting on his legal right not to be searched, Long said. He said that when Wiener reached for his pockets, he brushed the hands away.
“That’s when he punched me in the face,” Long said.
The officer had been circling around him, Long said. Long said he was aware of how officers come up behind “kids in the street” and “grab their throats,” so he circled to keep an eye on the officer.
Long said he was hit hard enough that he fell against his picket fence. As he went to the ground to get on his knees, Wiener started kicking him, he said. “They tried to put my face on the concrete.” A couple of New Haven officers drew their Tasers.
A crowd of neighbors watched what was going on. Several took out cell phones to record the beating. It was too late; it all occurred too fast.
Mark Williams, a carpenter who lives on Bassett Street, was among those in the crowd. He verified Long’s version.
“It was crazy,” Williams said in an interview Monday. “They grabbed him and jumped on him and beat him up—and arrested him. He didn’t do no shoving. He backed up. He said, ‘Am I under arrest?’ They grabbed him. The red-headed state cop hit him. He punched him; he kicked him, too.”
After the cops handcuffed him, before they took him to the station to book him, Long and Wiener had a brief conversation. They disagree about that conversation too—specifically, about a question mark.
Wiener’s version: “After Long calmed down he stated he should’ve let me pat him down but he believed he didn’t have to because he told me he didn’t have any weapons on him and he was angry that I didn’t believe him.”
Long’s version: Wiener told him he should have just let him pat him down, and then the arrest wouldn’t have happened. Incredulous, Long responded, “I should have let you pat me down?”
The trooper also told him he wouldn’t have made the arrest except for the fact that neighbors had cellphones out to take video, Long said.
Long didn’t go public with his complaints for months. He and his wife hoped the state would drop the charges. Instead, it wanted him to admit guilt in exchange for walking free.
Now he plans not just to continue insisting on his innocence, but to press the city and state police to investigate their own.
“People need to speak out about what’s going on in New Haven,” said Tanya Smith (pictured below). “They’re falsifying police documents, charging people with false charges to cover up their bad behavior.”