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.