Police question Crack manager, defend zapping punk with Taser

By Lincoln Anderson

Following the arrest of Scott Sturgeon, 32, lead singer of the punk-rock band Leftover Crack, and four of his fans in the East Village last Friday evening, three men identifying themselves as Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau officers paid a surprise visit to Bill Cashman, the band’s manager, Monday afternoon. The three officers easily entered the building, on Avenue C near 10th St., since its front door had reportedly been left open due to ongoing construction inside.

Speaking a couple of hours after the incident, Cashman — who is Sturgeon’s roommate — said the men knocked on his room’s door, said they were police and to open up, showed a badge, then asked him to come downstairs with them and get in their car, parked at the curb. Inside the vehicle, the trio of plainclothes officers questioned him for about 20 minutes, asking him, for example, if police had ever rescinded a sound permit for an outdoor Leftover Crack show a day before a scheduled performance.

“Really f—ing scary” was how Cashman described the officers’ unannounced appearance and interrogation.

Cashman said the officers didn’t give him any of their cards or contact phone numbers.

Because the officers didn’t leave any cards, John Penley, an activist who helped organize the band’s concert last Friday night a half-block away from the precinct stationhouse, said: “We’re suspicious whether they actually were from Internal Affairs.”

The officers’ car was an unmarked, dark sedan, according to a witness.

Deputy Inspector Dennis De Quatro, Ninth Precinct commanding officer, said I.A.B. investigations are confidential. Regardless of whether he was or wasn’t aware of what happened with Cashman on Monday, he said he wouldn’t be able to say so to the media, since it would be “a breach of confidentiality.”

DeQuatro said I.A.B. officers don’t necessarily leave anything after they question individuals.

“There’s no protocol that they have to leave a business card or a contact number,” he said.

De Quatro defended the police’s arrest of Sturgeon in Tompkins Square Park on Friday night after the singer had earlier that evening flung donuts toward officers during his concert.

“His actions rose to the level of harassment and disorderly conduct,” De Quatro said, adding that Sturgeon also resisted arrest when officers approached him in the park after the concert.

“If you read the Penal Law definition of harassment, that action [throwing donuts] would rise to the level of harassment,” De Quatro asserted. No officers were actually pelted by the pastries — though some came close.

Asked if Sturgeon’s anti-police lyrics, such as one song’s refrain, “Kill cops,” played any role in his arrest, De Quatro said, “None whatsoever. He has sung his songs that advocate violence and negative things against police officers before, and he has never been summonsed, arrested or whatever. So, obviously, his right to free speech has been respected. I have been present numerous times when he has been up on stage and said that, and no action has been taken.” De Quatro said Friday’s park fracas didn’t amount to a riot since a riot is accompanied by “mass arrests.”

De Quatro also defended the use of a Taser on one of the individuals. The man was tased through his shirt on his upper torso for three seconds with the Taser being used in “touch-stun mode.” The deputy inspector noted that a Taser’s other mode is to shoot two electrically charged darts, which are attached to wires on the Taser, up to 20 or 30 feet. These darts puncture the person’s skin and leave wounds that could get infected, he said. The “touch-stun” technique — in which the Taser is manually pressed against the individual — is safer, especially at close range, he noted.

The precinct now has four Tasers, up from only one two years ago. Four Ninth Precinct patrol units each have one, which are used by a supervising officer, either a lieutenant or sergeant. Like a baton or Mace, a Taser is a safer way to stop someone than using a gun, De Quatro noted. “It’s a tool police officers are given that is less lethal,” he said. “We have to use the minimal amount of force necessary.” The deputy inspector added that police are instructed not to use the weapon against pregnant women and that it’s probably not a good idea to tase older people, either, for example.

Police identified the man who was tased as Angel Aponte, 19, of 33 Essex St. Aponte, who police said threw a metal chair toward the police, was charged with reckless endangerment, riot and resisting arrest. A police spokesperson said Aponte was seen by Emergency Medical Services technicians after he was tased but refused medical attention.

Also arrested Friday evening in Tompkins Square Park was Michael Dayre, 17, of 100-11 62nd Road, Forrest Hills, Queens. Police said Dayre used an umbrella to damage the passenger-side, rear-view mirror of the police car into which Sturgeon was put after he was arrested. Dayre was charged with criminal mischief, obstruction of governmental administration and criminal possession of a weapon (the umbrella).

Michael Noonan, 22, of 3660 Oxford Ave., the Bronx, was arrested after he jumped on the back of the police car with Sturgeon in it and tried to break its rear window. He was charged with attempted criminal mischief (only “attempted” since he didn’t actually break the window) and obstruction of governmental administration.

Also arrested was Arlana Celestine, 17, who police said was homeless. Police said she sat down on the park path and tried to block the police car from driving away with Sturgeon. She was later charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction of governmental administration and resisting arrest.