Details are emerging about the Sunday morning arrests of five individuals at Gourmet Heaven, which were made by the New Haven Police Department after the store manager reported a fight that had broken out between Yale students, according to eyewitnesses.
NHPD spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester said police officers arrived at the popular Broadway eatery at 2:15 a.m. and charged the five individuals with breach of peace and criminal mischief charges, but Winchester did not release their names. Gourmet Heaven night manager Mohamad Masaud said he did not know why the fight started, but he said he believed that some of the people involved in the scuffle were Yale varsity athletes.
“[A hockey player] paid me … and the minute he walked by the door someone came from the football team and hit him,” Masaud said.
After the initial fight began, Masaud said, the situation quickly escalated as more people became involved. In the course of the fight, he said, the large picture window in front of the store was broken and several flower pots were destroyed. Masaud estimated that the damage done to the store, including loss of customers in the wake of the fight, could amount to over $3,500.
Yale Athletics Department officials declined to comment on the incident due to what they called a lack of information surrounding the details of the arrests.
“We need Yale and New Haven systems to run their course,” said Steven Conn, director of Sports Publicity. “We do not have enough information to make any comments or decisions whatsoever.”
Men’s ice hockey captain Matt Cohen ’07 declined to comment on the incident, but Masaud said that both Cohen and Yale men’s ice hockey head coach Keith Allain came to the store after the incident to talk to him about the fight. Allain could not be reached for comment Monday night.
In the days following the fight, eyewitnesses have come forward alleging that the NHPD officers who responded to the incident used excessive force when breaking up the fight.
One student, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was in the vicinity when the arrest was made and told the News he thought the officers overreacted to the situation and unfairly arrested some individuals who were not directly involved with the fight.
“They were basically egging kids on to do something stupid, and they were escalating the situation, not calming it down”, he said.
Winchester declined to comment on the student’s allegations, and said the police report filed on the incident did not mention how much force was used by the officers during the arrest.
This is not the first time NHPD officers have been accused by students of misconduct and use of excessive force.
Last November, David Atlas ’08 accused officer Marco Francia of using excessive force during Atlas’ Nov. 29 arrest. Atlas was charged with conspiracy to commit criminal mischief in the third degree and larceny in the sixth degree, but the charges were later dropped by the New Haven Superior Court.
In August 2005, Francia was accused of using excessive force when arresting Ilan Zechory ’06 outside his apartment on High Street last August. Eyewitnesses said at the time that Zechory was slammed against a wall without provocation and bled profusely from the head as he was escorted to the squad car. In September 2004, almost one year prior to Zechory’s arrest, Samuel Espinosa ’06 accused Francia of mistreatment while Espinosa was being arrested on charges of interfering with a police officer. Later that year, Francia and two other officers were sued by Seymour, Conn., resident Garrett Vorio, who alleged that police beat him after he attempted to spit on them, according to the New Haven Register. A federal jury rejected Vorio’s claims.
Four of the five individuals arrested in Sunday morning’s incident were charged with breach of peace in the second degree and criminal mischief in the third degree. The fifth individual was only charged with breach of peace in the second degree.