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Police deny New Kensington teen's allegations of brutality, racism

| Friday, July 31, 2009

Brackenridge police Chief Jamie Bock will ask Allegheny County District Attorney's detectives to investigate a claim that a black youth was assaulted and robbed by police earlier this month, even though he is convinced that the allegations are false.

Kyle Dudley, 18, of Taylor Avenue, New Kensington, claims an officer broke his wrist, cut his head and took a wrist watch and $18 from him during an incident at about 2:30 a.m. July 18.

Dudley, who is black, said police also used a racial slur when yelling at him.

Bock said based on detailed reports given separately by his two part-time patrolmen at the scene, David Taylor and James Sipes, no officers touched Dudley.

He says that Dudley could have been injured while jumping over a fence as he fled police.

The Rev. Mitch Nickols, vice president of the Alle-Kiski Valley NAACP chapter, isn't as sure.

He said the matter has been referred to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. He wants a full investigation to determine if federal hate crime laws have been violated.

Although the chief said he is satisfied that the officers didn't do anything wrong, he is asking the district attorney's detectives to investigate.

Bock said the three Tarentum officers who assisted at the scene — Patrolmen Robert Lang, Jared Bock and Shawn Panchick — provided the same scenario in their written reports.

The Valley News Dispatch viewed the police reports that largely agree with each other.

Bock said all officers involved were instructed to write the reports separately.

"I had one officer in one of our offices and the other at a computer in another office so they didn't compare notes," Bock said. The Tarentum officers similarly submitted their accounts, he said.

Police said the incident started about 2 a.m. on July 18 when officers found Dudley and two friends, LeBren O'Neal, 18, of Kenneth Avenue, New Kensington and a 17-year-old boy from New Kensington, hanging out along the 900 block of Third Avenue in Brackenridge.

Dudley said contrary to police accounts, he and his friends were among eight to 10 black and white youths "talking on a girl's porch."

Attempts to reach the girl or the others were unsuccessful Thursday.

According to police, the three youths police saw were told to leave the area, and the officers went to another call. When police returned a short time later after a neighbor called to complain, the youths were still there.

Dudley said the police "were acting aggressive" toward the black youths. They believed the officers were planning to arrest them, but not the white youths.

Dudley said he, O'Neal and the juvenile ran.

Dudley said he circled back to what he thinks is Third Avenue and encountered officers — he said he doesn't know their names — in a patrol car.

He said they yelled racial epithets at him and "hit me with something," first in the face. "All of a sudden I had blood in my eye and then they hit my wrist. I ran.

"I feared for my life. I had to run away," said Dudley, who is about 6-2, about 195 pounds. Last year, he was a starting football lineman and won a Westmoreland County wrestling title in the 189-pound class.

But Bock said officers reported never seeing Dudley again after he ran the first time.

He said O'Neal and the 17-year-old were caught at a fence near a vacant house. They were handcuffed and taken to the borough police station. Both were charged with disorderly conduct and released.

Neither O'Neal nor the juvenile could be reached for comment.

Brackenridge and Tarentum solicitors told Bock and Tarentum Police Chief Bill Vakulick that the officers can't comment on the case at this time.

Bock believes Dudley may have injured himself jumping over the fence, losing his watch and money in the fall.

"Police never had their hands on him," he said. "We had to mail him a citation."

Bock said a disorderly conduct citation was filed at the district justice office in Brackenridge the Monday after the incident so that the charge could be mailed to Dudley. Bock said the paperwork was mailed to Dudley by the district judge's office this week.

Dudley said Thursday he still hadn't received a citation.

He said his injuries required medical treatment. He produced hospital discharge reports that show he went to the hospital Sunday evening, some 36 hours after the incident.

Dudley said the wrist injury could place a possible collegiate football and wresting career at risk.

"I'm scared about it," he said.

Why did Dudley run?

"I'm black. Police told me, 'Get down (n-word),' and they didn't read me my Miranda rights or anything," he said. "They starting hitting me, and I ran."

Bock said the officers stated Dudley was never in custody. He ran away from the officers, the chief said, before either could touch him.

"These allegations are very disturbing and involve brutality and racism inflicted on teenagers," said Liney Glenn, the Valley's NAACP chapter president.

Glenn said she knows many good police officers and remembers teaching many of them in school.

"It so unfortunate because when we have an experience like this it paints relations with all police."

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