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Credibility gap

Students Dispute Charges of Assault | , Trespass | 4/22/2010, 8:05 a.m.
L-R Jannea, Maurice and Vonita St. Cyere were arrested for trespassing and other crimes after they ventured across Columbia Road to the Lilla Frederick Pilot School to pick up Jannea’s sister Tabrina St. Cyere right who is not allowed to cross Columbia Road by herself. Yawu Miller

It was a Friday afternoon when Jannea St. Cyere left her aunt’s Columbia Road apartment with her cousins and crossed the street to pick up her 12-year-old sister from the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot School.

The events that unfolded in the next 10 minutes left St. Cyere and three of her cousins charged with crimes, including assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and trespassing.

Interviewed at Jannea’s aunt’s Columbia Road apartment, the teens pieced together the events that led to their each receiving three months of unsupervised parole and an arrest record.

The day went from routine to bizarre, seemingly in an instant, when the Boston police officer working a paid detail in front of the school ordered St. Cyere, her cousins and the other children assembled on the sidewalk to stay off of school property.

They complied, standing instead in front of the homeless shelter at the corner of Columbia Road and Brunswick Street, approximately 30 feet from the edge of school property.

When St. Cyere stepped back toward the school, she says, signaling her sister to come to her, the officer grabbed the 15-year-old and slammed her on the side of a van, cutting her lower lip. Adding insult to injury, she said, the officer began cursing at her.

“I felt a huge force,” she said. “He just grabbed me and slammed me.”

Her cousin Vonita, also 15, grabbed her wrist while her cousin Maurice, 16, approached the officer in what, in hindsight, may have been an ill-advised attempt to defuse the situation.

“I tried to get him off my cousin,” said Maurice, a slimly built sophomore at Brighton High School. “I didn’t know what was happening. I wanted to see if my cousin was okay. She’s only 95 pounds, and she’s fragile.”

Another officer grabbed Maurice and dragged him to a cruiser, cuffed him and put him in the back of the car. From there, he watched as another officer slammed his sister on the ground, placing his knee on her chest, and then pinned her to the back of a cruiser.

“I was in the car. My sister’s shirt was all open. Her bra was showing. The police were yelling at my mother and aunt,” Maurice recalled.

When Maurice’s mother, also named Vonita, approached her daughter to help cover her bra, she said officers threatened to arrest her, too.

“They said, ‘We have a cruiser for you,’ ” Vonita St. Cyere said.

“We had to stand there and watch them treat our children the way they did,” said Carla St. Cyere, Jennea’s mother, who was also threatened with arrest when she attempted to intervene.

“It was a bad feeling,” she said. “Your child is calling, ‘Mommy, Mommy’ and you can’t do anything about it.”

An older cousin, Minnie St. Cyere, 22, was also arrested in the incident.

The incident report filed by the arresting officer, Henderson Parker, tells a different story, stating that the children were on school property when arrested, and that Jannea, when told she was under arrest, resisted arrest.