Brittany Rowley never thought she’d end up handcuffed in a police station. The 15-year-old honor student at an all-girls Catholic school said her ordeal with New York’s finest was traumatizing.
“It was terrifying,” she told the New York Daily News. “It is the most horrible thing I have ever experienced.”
The incident began when plainclothes officers in Brooklyn accosted the teen for allegedly matching the description of a shoplifter. After getting the call that two black teen girls, one with a ponytail, were wanted for stealing from a Park Slope clothing store, officers spotted Rowley and her friend walking nearby. Rowley’s braided ponytail apparently tipped them off and they pursued the girls. But that’s where the stories diverge.
The NY Daily News reports:
Rowley said the car suddenly reversed and a male yelled, “Get them!” The cops claim they said, “Excuse me ladies,” with their badges out.
Rowley and her friend ran. “I thought we were being abducted,” Rowley said.
Catanzaro tackled Rowley and threw her to the ground. He threw his keys, she said, hitting her leg. She recalled him saying, “Why did you f—— run? I should punch you.”
She claims Catanzaro yanked her up, whipsawing her neck. She says police also snapped on cuffs, causing bruises. Her friend returned and was collared too.
An NYPD official insists the incident was good police work, noting that Catanzaro obtained surveillance tape from the clothing boutique that exonerated Rowley, even after the store manager identified her as the suspect.
“But for him viewing the videotape, the young lady would still be in custody,” said Inspector Kim Royster, an NYPD spokeswoman.
Rowley spent three hours handcuffed to a bench in the police station, and her father is suing the officers and the department for false arrest and excessive force. He also told reporters he thought his daughter was only stopped because she was black.
“They had no proof, just a description of a black young lady with braids,” he added. “It wasn’t necessary to tackle a 15-year-old girl. It was excessive.”
This incident comes on the heels of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin that granted “class action status” to a civil lawsuit claiming New York’s controversial Stop and Frisk laws are discriminatory because they disproportionally affect black and Latino residents. The judge in the case called the NYPD’s attitude “deeply troubling,” opening the door for the lawsuit to proceed.
*Photo via NY Daily News