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He’s Mine. Back Off!

I had dropped off my pet at a vet near our transit police headquarters. As I was walking out back to my car I noticed a young big black man running across a schoolyard playground. He hit the chain-link fence, climbed over and ran down the street.

Two other police came up and said, “Get him! Get him!” So I went dashing down the street.

But then I realized, “Ah, I don’t see him.”

Two women hanging out their window said, “He went down there, officer.”

There was a door in the side of the street. I just go in there, walking into the dark until I came out the other side into a series of back yards. Then I began running and jump over fence after fence. I finally come to the last yard where the building rounds the bend into an L. I go running in.

There I see this poor suspect towering over me, but huffing like he was going to have a heart attack. I am just standing there as cool, as non-winded as possible. I had run track in school.

Here I am confronted with him. And I hadn’t had that much practice and I wasn’t really that tough. I’d never have made it in the regular police force. I just wasn’t that aggressive. But all I had to do was say, “OK, you’re under arrest, turn around, put your hands on your head, walk to the wall.”

And he just did everything I said. I didn’t even touch him. He was so astonished that I would show up. He was just so exhausted. After I had put him in cuffs, my two partners showed up.

Then things got interesting. I was the only white person there–black suspect, two black transit police officers.

And they were beside themselves, saying, “Hold him up. Let me hit him!” He had apparently assaulted one of our female officers on her way to work. So here I am, protecting this suspect. Once I had my suspect arrested, I lost all my anger. I thought they were pathetic at that point, because they were defenseless. You had done the worst thing you could do, which was to take away their liberty. I never understood the temptation to beat them further. Even though in the pursuit I’d be agitated, angry.

I’ll never forget that incident. People often say it’s the whites beating the blacks. But here it was two blacks wanted to beat a black suspect. And I was saying, “No, he’s mine. Back off!”

You’re Not Getting In

In this last incident a kid tried to force his way into the cafeteria. He tried to push past a female security officer. She wouldn’t let him in and called me over to help.

Now he’s talking very loud, very big. Behind me are 500 kids. He’s going to show that he’s new in school and no one’s going to stand in his way. He started pushing me around.

I’m saying, “Just keep your hands to yourself. You’re not getting in.”

He went nose to nose with me then told me I was very sweet and kissed me on my cheek.

In my mind I’m trying to defuse the situation. Should I hit him now with 500 kids behindme and start a riot? Without knowing the kid, it was my feeling that he had been in prison. He was trying to get me to initiate something. I pushed him off me. Two security officers stepped in.

Our next step was to get him out. He punched a female security officer in the chest and knocked her over a table. I started restraining him.

Other kids jumped in saying, “Don’t hit DeGennaro.” At that point he ran out of the cafeteria. The situation’s over.

Ten minutes later the same kid comes running back, full speed screaming, I’m going to get you.” Cursing big time.

I’m short and stocky. He tried to knock me down, ran into me and fell back. I didn’t move. If I fell down in front of all these kids…it’s crazy you have to play these mind games, but you have to.

He got up and started punching me in the side of my face. We started wrestling again. That’s when I tore my rotator cuff. I held him up against the wall. The security officers handcuffed him.

When we took him out he started crying, “I want my mommy.” This was the second high school he was in, and he went on to a third school. He had been arrested twice before.


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