Monday, July 18, 2005
What this country has become: He-men in action
An 11-year-old girl who threw a rock to defend herself as neighborhood boys pelted her with water balloons is being prosecuted on a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon.
Maribel Cuevas says she didn't mean to hurt the 9-year-old boy _ who acknowledged to officers that he started the fight in late April. He was released from the hospital after getting his head stitched up.
Maribel already has spent five days in juvenile hall with one half-hour visit from her parents. She then spent 30 days under house arrest, wearing a GPS ankle bracelet to monitor her whereabouts and is now due back in court early next month.
What did it take to arrest Maribel? According to the BBC,
An ambulance was called, but arrived flanked by three police patrol vehicles. A helicopter meanwhile hovered overhead.
The 11-year-old was then read her rights twice in English before being detained.
Every act may be a crime, at the discretion of the police and prosecutors. Every crime requires maximum force by the police to ensure their safety. Are you feeling safer yet?
Another AP report contains more detail—
Her family says Maribel meant no harm when she accidentally hit Elijah Vang, the 9-year-old neighborhood boy, in the forehead with a rock. They say she was simply defending herself after Vang and several other boys pummeled her with water balloons outside her home in a poor Fresno neighborhood in April. Vang’s family isn’t pressing charges and has since moved away.
No matter the boy admitted to officers he started the fight and was quickly released from the hospital after getting his head stitched up. No matter the girl herself ran for help.
Officers said their response was not excessive, and was not motivated by the low-income, largely minority neighborhood.
Of course not. They would have treated a kid from the Hamptons just the same way.
Now what's all this talk about excessive use of force?
Maribel says she was playing on the sidewalk with her 6-year-old brother and other younger children on April 29, when the boys rode by on their bikes.
They started teasing her, calling her names and hitting her with water balloons, she said, holding her 1-year-old brother in her lap in her family’s modest living room, where a couch and dining table share space with a crib and a bed.
When the boys refused to leave, Maribel threw a rock at them, hitting Elijah.
The aunt of one of Maribel’s playmates saw the boy’s forehead was cut. She got him a towel to stop the bleeding, and called 911, the family said.
Maribel ran to the boy’s house, two blocks from her own, to tell his parents she was sorry, she said.
Police responded to the call ready to tackle a hardened criminal.
The officers "grabbed me from behind, by my shirt" the girl said in Spanish. "I was so scared. … I didn’t know what they were doing."
Maribel panicked. The officers had the slight girl down on the ground, and one of them put his knee to her back to restrain her, her mother said in Spanish.
Guadalupe Cuevas couldn’t communicate with the officers, because she doesn’t speak English, and was pushed away when she tried to reach her daughter.
Maribel was crying, the police report said, but Officer Christopher Green, who handcuffed her, wrote, "We were able to get Cuevas into the back of the patrol vehicle."
Her attorney (she needed an attorney, for God's sake?) said,
This is a case where the police department "overreacted and won’t back down," Beshwate said. "I don’t know if they don’t like Spanish speakers, if it’s racism, or if they were having a bad day. But how can you defend this kind of behavior?"
They don't need to.