The legal saga that began with the October 2010 police raid on the Morse-Stiles Screw at Elevate Lounge is at an end, following the dismissal of three charges against Jordan Jefferson ’14 two months ago.
Jefferson was one of five students arrested after New Haven Police Department officers, some dressed in SWAT gear, raided the nightclub Oct. 2, 2010, in a crackdown on underage drinking. The bust drew criticism from students at the scene, who claimed that police used excessive force and profanity. The charges against all five arrested students have since been dropped, and the NHPD has updated its policies for similar situations in the future.
“[This incident] really resulted from police overreacting to a misunderstanding of the situation, and unfortunately my client and others were caught in the middle of it,” said William Dow ’63, Jefferson’s New Haven-based lawyer. “The whole incident never should have happened — it was a question of extremely poor judgement exercised by law enforcement.” He added that he and his client were pleased with the result.
Jefferson declined to comment for this article.
While the other four students were charged with disorderly conduct, interfering with a police officer or criminal trespass, Jefferson faced three felony counts of assaulting an officer, stemming from a struggle that ensued after at least one NHPD officer used a Taser on him. The charges against Jefferson were the last to be dismissed of those leveled against the five students.
NHPD spokesman David Hartman declined to comment on how his department feels the Jefferson case has played out.
Witnesses at the scene told the News following the raid that Jefferson was Tasered at least five times, and repeatedly punched and kicked by several police officers surrounding him. One officer turned to the student crowd and yelled “Who’s next?” while another shouted “Anybody else?” according to student accounts.
In the NHPD’s internal affairs report, Sgt. John Wolcheski concluded that officers did not use excessive force while arresting Jefferson. Instead, Jefferson was “actively resisting and fighting the officers,” thereby making the officers’ conduct “lawful, justified and proper,” he wrote.
Students who gave testimony to the report said that officers began focusing their attention on Jefferson after he “stepped forward slightly” away from an officer trying to arrest him. But NHPD Lt. Thaddeus Reddish alleged that Jefferson slapped officers’ hands when they attempted to handcuff him, and proceeded to strike two other officers with his forearm as they tried to Taser him.
The raid, which took place as part of “Operation Nightlife,” a NHPD initiative to reduce downtown violence by cracking down on alcohol-related violations in downtown clubs and bars, has already spurred change in the department.
One major concern the incident brought to light was officers’ lack of training in dealing with citizen cellphone usage. Officers at the scene told students they could not use cellphones, according to the internal affairs report, contradicting state law.
The issue was addressed in the “Video Recording of Police Activity” policy, announced by then-NHPD Chief Frank Limon shortly after the raid, which permits citizens to use cellphones to record officers’ conduct.
Limon also pledged at the time to boost the department’s planning and organization in preparation for future raids to avoid the problems raised by the Elevate raid.
Following the Oct. 2 raid, witnesses met with Limon and subsequently filled out official statements for the Internal Affairs detectives assigned to the incident.
The internal affairs report which compiled these accounts, released Mar. 3, concluded that there had been failures in the police planning, but that there were no punishable offenses.