Details emerge from Elevate raid

When the New Haven Police Department broke up Morse-Stiles Screw at the Alchemy/Elevate nightlub early Saturday morning, they shouted profanities at the attendees, threw some to the ground and tased a Yale sophomore.

NHPD spokesman Joe Avery said in a Saturday press release that the sophomore struck an officer, and that police tased him to bring him under control. But Yale students who were present at the scene and gave detailed accounts of night said the police were unnecessarily violent.

According to nine students, police officers entered the Alchemy/Elevate club on 215 Crown St. at approximately 12:50 a.m. Saturday. At that time, the dance, set to end at 2 a.m., was in full swing.

The music began to fade out, the lights came on and many students let out a unified groan, Jenna Poggi ’13 said.

Lee Kennedy-Shaffer ’13 said officers, many wearing bulletproof vests and two brandishing assault rifles, began to walk through the crowd. Some of them were wearing uniforms that read “Connecticut State Liquor Board” on the back, he said.

The officers yelled,“Get down and sit on the floor,” “No one say a word,” and“Get comfortable, [because] you’re going to be here a while,” Poggi said.

She said that students were told to get out their IDs, while officers began to walk around the club checking both Yale identification cards and drivers’licenses, but that many of the students didn’t have their IDs on them.

Elizabeth Freeburg ’13 said she and other students who did not have their IDs were told to stand up and were sent to an officer in another area of the club. After trying to explain to that officer that her ID was back in her room, Freeburg said she was told to sit back down.

Danny Zelaya ’13 said after an initial sense of confusion in the first moments of the raid, the crowd began to relax after about 10 minutes.

Twenty-five to 30 minutes into the raid, police officers came around for a second time to check IDs, he said.

Students were told to sit on the ground, but eventually seemed to loosen up, Zelaya said. But, Freeburg said, police yelled at some students for taking out their cell phones, and threatened one girl with a “filthy f—ing jail cell” for laughing.

A senior Stilesian who asked to remain anonymous said a police officer saw he had his cell phone out. The officer then grabbed him, cursed at him, confiscated his ID and put him in 90 minutes of “time out.” When he asked why he was detained, he said the officer gave no explanation and told him to “sit in the corner and shut the f— up.”

“I didn’t know my rights, so I asked him if I had to put my phone away and he told me ‘not to f—ing question him and to do what he said,’” the Stilesian said, adding that he has a bruise on his right arm from the interaction. “As I was standing up, he grabbed me, pulled me toward himand ripped my shirt.”

30 minutes into the raid, an officer with a camera walked around the upper floor of the club, taking pictures of students sitting on the ground, Zelaya said, adding that he tried his best to hide from the camera. He said he saw some students posing and joking about it.

He said approximately one hour after the start of the raid, students were told to form a single-file lineand prepare to leave. As they made their way out of the club, police officers stationed at the exit checked students’ IDs a final time, he added.

Freeburg said at that point, she was taken out of the group for a second time. When an officer found she did not have her ID, she was sent back into the club and made to wait with approximately 15 other people, she said.

As they waited, Freeburg said she repeatedly asked several officers why she was being held, but her questions were not answered. After about 15 minutes, a policewoman told the group they could go without offering an explanation, she said.

Marty Evans ’11said as the line was walking out the door, a struggle between a Silliman sophomore and several police officers occurred.

After an exchange between the sophomore and at least one officer, the sophomore was told to stand up and the officer took out a pair of handcuffs, Evans said.

Evans said the policeman told the sophomore not to move as he tried to place him into handcuffs, but that eventually the officer took out a yellow-and-black Taser and placed it at the base of the student’s neck. Then the Taser went off.

Moments later, at least five officers struggled with the sophomore, piled on top of himand hit him, Evans said.

Most of the nine students interviewed did not see how the tasering incident began, but none disagreed with Evans’ account. Four said they also saw the officers beat and taser the sophomore.

“I did see[the police officers] absolutely slamming on him,” said Zelaya, who had not seen the beginning of the conflict, “and I could see the electricity from the Taser.”

Zelaya said he remembers hearing an officer say to the sophomore, “You’re going to be f—ing locked up for nine months.”

Video footage leaked to the News by someone present at the scene shows a group of officers standing on the dance floor with a large crowd of students around them. At least two officers turn to face the crowd and yell, “Anybody else?” and “Who’s next?”

Both Zelaya and Kennedy-Shaffer said they heard students crying and screaming.

The students were forced to leave, and then pushed away from Alchemy/Elevate by officers outside, Kennedy-Shaffer said.

The sophomore who had been tasered was brought down to the street, the senior from Stiles said, and was held in a police cruiser for some time before beingtaken by an EMT to Yale-New Haven Hospital for treatment for injuries sustained during his arrest.

In all, five Yale students were charged with crimes. In addition to the sophomore whom police tased, two students were taken to jail and charged with interfering with police, and two other seniors, who were on the street near the club but did not attend the screw, were charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct but were not taken to jail.

Four of these five students asked to not be named for legal reasons, and the sophomore who was tased declined to comment.

The two students who went directly to the Union Avenue Jail had to wait to be booked until“Promise to Appear” forms, which commit a person to appearing in court in lieu of posting bail.


  • Mikelawyr2

    A couple of excellent lessons for Yale students!

    1. A different set of rules applies within the confines of the residential colleges. Go outside them, and you are constrained to obey the laws as enforced by the authorities at hand. Generally, members of the Class of ’13 are under age 21 and should not expect to party down at public nightclubs with the same immunity as they enjoy in, say, the common rooms and dining halls.

    2. Cops are brusque, vulgar and threatening for a reason. Better to scream obscenities at you and intimidate you with words and gestures than to control you at the point of a gun. You are not their typical perps.

    This alum wishes you well and wonders why anyone would want to party in a downtown club as opposed to a dining hall, the way we used to. Or maybe it’s just that Stiles and Morse are cold places for any activity.

  • NH_Alum

    Interesting comments on the New Haven Register website, including a few that appear to be from NHPD Officers who were there. Especially this one, from “Officer”:

    “You obviously were not at the club. The police were tired and did not want to be there. When a large meathead jock gives us the opportunity to swing some sticks and use our taser, we are going to take it. This should be a lesson to all of you priveleged Yalies. We will use force and there is nothing you can do to stop it until you take our badges. ”

  • tiredOfTheNonsense

    I’m sure you meant to use the qualifier “allegedly” when referring to the acts attributed to the parties involved but you forgot… sheeesh. Hope you aren’t law or journalism students…

  • Nowyouknow

    So know..yalies know what the city residents have to deal with. A tear jerker!

  • Yale12

    Nowyouknow: But Yalies are not the ones shooting people. City residents are.

  • Tanner

    I think the Police would rather be called for a double murder in Fair Haven than have to deal with a disturbance involving a College Event, especially when Yale students are involved. Let the School do what it wants and let Yale Police and Security deal with it. As soon as the police arrive visions suddendly its May 1970 or Tieneman Square. It always seems to end up with cries of brutality or “We felt vulnarable, the police where not protecting use.” Either way let the court precedings begin.

  • NewYaleDad

    I have a child at Yale. Yes, a child. I had misgivings about her going to live in what is so often referred to as “a crappy town,” but when Yale calls, you take the call. New Haven is not the only place in the U.S. with cops. Cops are pretty much the same everywhere, although some are more civilized than others. S.W.A.T. stands for special weapons and tactics. It’s used for high risk / low probability paramilitary operations. You don’t go into such an operation without intel. With intel, you know it’s a Yale party and you don’t go in dressed for combat because SWAT is not indicated. If you do, you’re just trying to make a political statement and you have no moral authority. In fact, you are a gang of thugs. Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re not a gang of thugs that we, as society, can’t mostly control; but you’re still to be feared and avoided because you are untrustworthy and unreliable. Further, you have violated the public trust and abused your authority, which should make you subject to prosecution. My suggestion to the Yalies is that they send a message to the City of New Haven by way of boycott. Let’s have the parents stay elsewhere for family weekend and graduation. We can eat at restaurants in neighboring towns and our kids can buy their stuff online or we can send it to them. Let the merchants put pressure at the City if you can’t. How about registering to vote there instead of absentee back home? If you can’t go out in your own neighborhood, why would you volunteer to try to make N.H. better. Withdraw to campus and forget that town. Bottom line: watch out for the NHPD. They hate you for what they think you are.

  • yaylie

    I don’t think SWAT gear is the issue. Of course it does nothing to boost police-civilian relations to have police bearing rifles to a night club, but they have every right to be wearing whatever gear they want. Also, having a SWAT team sit on its butts all night long when they don’t have a dangerous weapons event to respond to doesn’t sound like a good use of resources.

    The real issues here are:

    — Police intereference with filming should not be tolerated, and officers who engaged in it should be put on probation or fired.
    — Use of taser, especially multiple times on the same person. Was it justified? Was the guy resisting? Police say yes, students say no. Normally the police would make the more credible witness, since they’re just there to do their jobs, but they lose credibility as witnesses when there’s a recording of them shouting “who’s next” and “anybody else,” and they’re interfering with filming of the evidence directly relating to the incident.
    — Allegations, if any, that the guy was beaten, or tasered while down on his stomach on the ground. I wonder if the half-wit aldermen who voted to give NHPD tasers 3 years ago are happy with their choice. It seems most people who have run-ins with the police would rather be hit with a baton than electrocuted.
    — Allegations of steroid use by NHPD. A lot of their out-of-line behavior seems consitent with roid rage.

    It seems New Haven hired a bunch of idiots onto its police force if they thought their behavior wouldn’t leave a stink when it came to Yale students. I remember back in the day there was a lawsuit against Connecticut State Police for rejecting applicants who scored too high on the pre-employment test…

  • 36HighStreet

    These people will lose their jobs and become bouncers. Yale’s institutional power alone is sufficient, of course, but when you throw in dozens of pissed off parents with money and influence demanding action… they are done for. It’s not necessarily fair, but at least they’ll still get to push people around.

  • prion

    Why not revive the old plan to move Yale out of New Haven?

  • yalie13

    It’s really funny how nobody has really addressed this overarching issue:
    **Is underage drinking even correlated with city violence for us to expend so much energy and money toward cracking down on it?!**

    Seriously, is underage drinking any more of a disruption to society than legal drinking? Should we then outlaw drinking altogether? Shouldn’t we be cracking down on more important things like gun violence, crime, gangs, drug-trafficking, and poverty?

  • Ebonytoweryale

    [Morse/Stiles Screw and “Yale Privilege”][1]


  • Hieronymus’ Bosh

    Prion: I sometimes fantasize about Yale up and moving (very few people know about that study, btw), but really I think that over the past decade Yale has done a fair job of getting *New Haven* out of New Haven!

  • cnmusco

    @ Nowyouknow “So now..yalies know what the city residents have to deal with. A tear jerker!”

    Why should anyone have to deal with it? Would the complaints of police brutality be legitimate if they came from New Haven residents but not from Yalies? Come on. Yes many Yalies come from privileged backgrounds where they have never had be in a confrontational situation with the police. But I can’t see how this makes their complaints any less legitimate. Its about time that more of us woke up to the abuses of power that happen each an every day in every city throughout this country. Don’t make this an issue of class. Police brutality/abuse of power is not an issue of class or privilege. It is wrong no matter who experiences it.

  • MinNYC

    I used to work in NYC nightclubs in the early eighties. Payoffs to the police and fire dept. were the norm and considered a cost of doing business. It sounds to me like the Elevate Club refused to pay off somebody. Or, a rival club that wants to put Elevate out of business could be behind it. Don’t think that this gross over reaction happened because the police were concerned with the public’s safety. Follow the dirty money trail. I’d bet anything the owner/management refused to play ball with the criminals and suffered the consequences along with the Yale students. This is how the club business was in NYC in the early eighties and I’d bet it’s not much different now in New Haven. If the police had their priorities straight, they’d be focused on the gangs, guns and drugs which are an epidemic in New Haven. A thorough investigation of the NH police by the FBI is needed.