police brutality

Did Philadelphia Cops Use Domestic Violence Call As An Excuse To Beat Up ‘Pussy Faggots’?

Philadelphia: The city of brotherly love? Or the city of police brutality? In a complaint filed with both the Internal Affairs Bureau and the Police Advisory Commission, Luis Berrios claims he and his partner Jason Mendez were subjected to homophobic slurs and excessive violence by cops when a neighbor called to report a domestic disturbance between the two.

When four officers arrived, Berrios says in the complaint, he asked the officers to take Mendez home to sober up, and that he wasn’t interested in pressing charges. Berrios told police Mendez was his brother; Mendez told cops the truth. Shortly after, all hell broke loose, the Philadelphia Gay News reports. And words like “pussy faggot” and instruments like police batons started getting thrown around.

Berrios said he walked into the kitchen when he heard Mendez yelling, “Babe, they’re beating me up,” and returned to see his partner in handcuffs and the officers with their batons drawn. “I asked what they were doing and the one said that [Mendez] cursed at his partner and he told me to back up,” Berrios said. “They told me to just calm down or that I’d be next.” Berrios said he went to his back porch and made a phone call and that, on his way back in, he saw the officers taking Mendez out front and heard one of them say, “Once he hits the snow, he’ll calm down.”

He said the officers threw Mendez face-first into a pile of snow, repeatedly calling him “nigger” and “faggot.” He said one of the officers must have called for back-up, as 10-12 officers eventually arrived on the scene. When Berrios approached and asked the officers to let Mendez up, he said they became confrontational with him.

“I never cursed at them, I never spoke out of line, I didn’t show aggression at all,” he said. “One of them came up and said, ‘Put your hands down’ — I was speaking with my hands because I was excited and emotional — and I asked them to just let me calm down. Jason was in the snow and he was saying he couldn’t breathe and they were just stomping on his ankles and hitting his legs with the batons, calling him faggot. And one of the officers said, ‘If you want to help him, put your hands against the wall, faggot.’”

Berrios said when he complied, the arresting officer, listed in court records as Officer Robert Tavarez, handcuffed him. He said the officer attempted to push him in the snow also, but he resisted, and Tavarez instead pushed him against the police car. “I don’t know what he did with the baton but it felt like he put it between the cuffs and just started twisting it back the opposite way,” Berrios said. “I kept telling him how much it was hurting and he just said, ‘Shut up, pussy faggot.’ I closed my eyes and all I could hear was Jason screaming. And I told him I have a dislocated wrist, and he said, ‘Shut the fuck up, or you’ll have a broken wrist.’ He said, ‘Let me hear you squeal, faggot.’ And I just started screaming in pain and telling them to just take me, to just put me in jail if they wanted to, so he’d stop. I begged the other officers to make him stop and my neighbor was standing there crying because she knew she couldn’t do anything. I was crying and finally just started banging my head against the windshield to try to knock myself out because I was in so much pain.”

The cops then shoved Mendez in the back of their car and, according to his complaint, which notes neither man was read his Miranda rights, began beating him with batons. Both men have previous criminal records: Mendez is serving two years probation after being arrested on drug charges last year, while Barrios is completing a two-year probation stint for retail theft.

After arriving at the precinct, both men were taken to a nearby hospital.

He said Mendez was bruised “from head to toe,” had deep scratches all over his body, about 15 nail marks around this throat and a cut-open mouth, as well as large patches of hair that had been ripped out. Berrios later sought medical attention for frequent swelling and numbness in his hands. Berrios was ultimately charged with simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and possession of an instrument of crime with intent — during the altercation with his partner, Berrios said he struck him with a clothes iron because Mendez was pinning him down and did not realize he was having an asthma attack. Mendez faces charges of simple assault, aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person.

So what’s next? The men have criminal hears Jan. 27 and 28, and the files of the officers involved have been updated to include the complaints the couple filed against them until an investigation concludes whether there was any wrongdoing. And while Barrios is out on bail, Mendez remains in custody.

Do we know all the facts yet? Nope, so it’s certainly too early to start picking sides. And I have a feeling that no matter what the Internal Affairs investigation concludes, there’s going to be a lot of grey area — like how the men didn’t explicitly comply with police orders, but how they were also very likely called “faggots” and had the shit beat out of them well beyond what was necessary to maintain control. As the story develops, I’ll be more interested to know if any other complaints have been filed against these officers.

[photo, not featuring the officers involved]