A teenager was arrested and brutally beaten by cops after they confronted him for being in an area they deemed to be a “crime hot spot”.
18-year-old Connor DeLeire was tased and pepper-sprayed in a city-center confrontation with police, his father John DeLeire says.
“They bashed his head against the cruiser, they bashed his head against the ground. They dragged him around,” said John DeLeire, who disputes the police department’s account of the arrest.
According to police, Connor had “no good reason” for being in a “predictive hot spot” – a place police computers calculate to be areas of high crime levels.
The arrest has drawn criticism online, with many bloggers focusing on a police statement that DeLeire could give no legitimate reason for being in the area.
“You have to prove that you are in an area for a legitimate reason? Since when?” wrote Laura Levasseur on UnionLeader.com.
DeLeire’s father said his son gave the police officer a legitimate reason for being in the area. His friend was picking up a niece who lived a block away, and Connor DeLeire was sitting in the car waiting for them.
DeLeire’s father said the friend appeared as DeLeire’s arrest concluded. He agreed to be searched and showed that the car was his.
The friend bailed Connor out of jail, John DeLeire said.
According to the initial police statement, Connor DeLeire was sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked 2000 Honda Accord on Merrimack Street. When police approached and started speaking to him, he started shaking.
He grew agitated, objected to any searches and tried to prevent police from accessing his pocket, where a fully loaded gun magazine was eventually found, police said in a statement.
Police charged DeLeire with resisting arrest.
Doing his job
Willard said he realized the backlash the arrest would incite, and said the use of the words “legitimate purpose” in the initial police statement about the arrest were unfortunate. But he insisted that the high-crime nature of the area has to be taken into account.
“The police officer’s doing his job. He’s trying to change the crime pattern in that neighborhood,” Willard said.
He said DeLeire was from out of town and sitting in a parked car, behavior typical of a customer looking for a prostitute. And he was glancing down at his lap, which is a sign of potential drug use, Willard said.
When officer Derek Cataldo approached the car about 5:30 p.m., he was inquiring if DeLeire was OK, the chief said. Had DeLeire said he was waiting for a friend and was fine, the officer would have moved on, Willard said.
Police said that Cataldo noticed a 9mm handgun in a holster when he spoke to DeLeire.
Willard said Cataldo is an exceptional police officer, and he trusts his judgment.
John DeLeire said his son grew up with guns, has taken gun safety courses and has a license to conceal the weapon. Connor DeLeire told the officer he had a handgun and put it in the backseat to put him at ease, John DeLeire said.
Connor DeLeire became confused when police moved to handcuff him, his father said.
“Anybody would be thrashing when he was beat against his head. There were gashes all over his face,” John DeLeire said.