Five men were arrested during an altercation with Long Beach police officers in the North Park area on Tuesday night, in what one police official described as a “melee” that required additional assistance from the Nassau County Police Department and resulted in two officers being injured.
Charles Evan, 39, Laquann Hodge, 21, Derrick Patten, 18, Devante Patten, 16, and Bruce Rodgers, 19, all of Long Beach, were arrested on charges of first-degree riot, obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest.
Rodgers and Derrick Patten were also charged with second-degree assault, police said. Deputy Inspector Bruce Meyer said that the men were either released on their own recognizance or posted bail.
According to police, the incident occurred at 6 p.m., when three plainclothes officers from the Street Crimes Unit approached three men who were walking on East Pine Street. Meyer said the men were “acting suspicious in nature.” “One factor was that one of them had his face masked with a bandanna,” Meyer. “The officers felt that it warranted an interview.”
Meyer explained that when officers identified themselves as police, the three men fled in different directions. At that point, the officers called for backup, and as one of the men was fleeing, Meyer said, he “made a tug at his waistband.”
That man entered a home on East Pine Street, Meyer said. The officers split up, and one of them went to the front door of the home and knocked, with the intention of questioning the man, Meyer said.
When the man opened the door, Meyer explained, the other suspects returned and the “riot broke out.”
The incident sparked the ire of local residents, who maintain that the men were doing nothing wrong and that police violated their civil rights. On Wednesday, more than 30 residents gathered in front of City Hall to protest the arrests, saying that the police brutalized the young men in what many residents are calling an unprovoked attack.
Meyer disputed accusations that police instigated the incident.
“Everything happened very, very quickly,” said Meyer. “The scene became very explosive.” He estimated that 100 or more people crowded the street when fighting broke out.
“Officers were being kicked from behind and cursed at,” Meyer said, in addition to being punched from behind. He added that the police were outnumbered. Initially, all available officers — 13 of them — were called to the scene, but “because of the size and volatility of the crowd,” Meyer said, “13 wasn’t enough.” Officers from Nassau County were also called in, and eventually, he said, more than 30 police officers were on the scene.
The incident lasted about a half an hour, Meyer said. Two Long Beach officers sustained injuries, and were treated at Long Beach Medical Center.
“[Officers] maintained their composure, and they got the job done,” Meyer said.
The five suspects were arraigned in Long Beach City Court on Wednesday afternoon, in a room packed with supporters who were outraged by the incident. In interviews afterward, they disputed the Police Department’s version of events. Supporters of the men argued that it was police officers who were the aggressors and that the men did not provoke the attack.
Before and after the arraignment, about 40 protesters gathered outside City Hall, loudly chanting, “No justice, no peace!” Many in the crowd voiced their anger over the arrests, saying that the men did nothing wrong.
“What they did to those young men was wrong,” said James Hodge, a local community leader and Laquann Hodge’s uncle, who led the protest. After the arraignment, Hodge led the suspects’ supporters in prayer in front of City Hall, saying that change is needed in the community.
“We will fight on,” Hodge said. “[Lord], take care of our community.”