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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/05/07

An internal investigation by the Atlanta Police department into an infamous jaywalking incident has exonerated the officer accused of roughing up a professor.

But the bickering about what really happened that day continues.

The 101-page report concluded that Officer Kevin Leonpacher acted appropriately when he arrested distinguished historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto while the professor was jaywalking in downtown Atlanta six months ago.

"[Fernandez-Armesto] wasn't arrested for jaywalking," said Atlanta Police Public Information Manager Judy Pal. "He was arrested for disobeying a lawful order from a police officer."

The 57-year-old professor called the investigation "profoundly incompetent."

"My goodwill is not inexhaustible," Fernandez-Armesto said in a telephone interview from his home in London. "I'm not going to let this go."

He's hired an attorney and is considering legal action.

"My interest is not personal," he said. "Lots and lots of citizens have written me to tell of similar situations."

Six months after the Jan. 4 incident, the two sides agree on little of what happened that day. They do agree that Fernandez-Armesto was crossing Courtland Street. Fernandez-Armesto contends he was not aware Leonpacher was a police officer. Furthermore, he said, jaywalking is not illegal in Britain.

Leonpacher said Fernandez-Armesto dismissed his orders to use the crosswalk, then ignored repeated requests to stop. Fernandez-Armesto said he was polite throughout; Leonpacher says otherwise. And vice versa.

The confrontation ended with the professor being wrestled to the ground and taken to jail. He appeared the next morning before a judge, who dropped the charges.

The British news media covered the story extensively. The Mirror, which ridiculed Atlanta police for arresting "Public Enemy No. 1."

Fernandez-Armesto, who said he has scars on his head from the scuffle, said he wasn't contacted by investigators for his side of the story. Police said they tried to reach the author by phone.

"They couldn't get him to respond, for whatever reason," said Sgt. Kevin Iosty.

"Absolutely not," said Fernandez-Armesto, who served as a chair in Spanish culture and civilization at Tufts University near Boston. "They had my U.K. address, which is where I was for most of the relevant time. My mail was forwarded regularly from my U.S. address from January through April, and I have had nothing from them. Nor have I received a phone call."

The police summary of the investigation, which was completed in May, includes interviews from eyewitnesses who believed Fernandez-Armesto to be in the wrong. Some were officers on the scene, two others were civilians. Each told a similar account backing the officer's story.

Martin Catino, a University of South Carolina professor who attended the historians' conference, told police Fernandez-Armesto was "very belligerent" toward the officer.

"Mr. Catino said when the officer reached for Mr. Armesto to put the handcuffs on, Mr. Armesto continued to be belligerent, struggled and also resisted arrest," according to the internal investigation.

"Mr. Catino said Officer Leonpacher was professional at all times and was very cool," the report said.

Edward Allen, a bellman at the Hilton Hotel who also watched the arrest unfold, echoed Catino's account.

"The officer had a lot more patience with the man than what I would have," Allen told police. "[Fernandez-Armesto] felt as though he was more important than the police officer."

But Rick Shenkman, editor of the History News Network, said throughout the conference there were complaints about police harassing pedestrians.

"It was constant, nonstop," said Shenkman, an associate professor of history at George Mason University in Virginia. Shenkman backs Fernandez-Armesto's assertion that Leonpacher wasn't easily identified as a police officer, although the officer said he was wearing a bomber jacket with "Atlanta Police" emblazoned on the sleeves.

Another conference attendee, Monica Ricketts, a Ph.D. student at Harvard University, said she was accosted by an officer while crossing the street where Fernandez-Armesto was arrested.

"He started yelling at us, blowing a whistle as we were crossing the street," she said. "He got in my face and was pointing his finger at me. It was so bizarre."

The professor is seeking a further review of his case, saying the city had "no interest in the person aggrieved." Through his attorney, Fernandez-Armesto has written Mayor Shirley Franklin's office detailing grievances to which he says Atlanta should be legally liable.

Beverly Isom, a spokeswoman for Franklin, said the mayor's office is standing behind the internal inquiry.

"At this time we are unaware of any communication to the mayor for further consideration in this case and accept APD's report on the jaywalking arrest," Isom said.

Find this article at: ... ywalk.html

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Furthermore, he said, jaywalking is not illegal in Britain.
Well, you weren't in Britain were you sport?

Lot's of folks try the "I didn't know he was an officer" line even when the officer is in plain uniform; so, I ain't buying that one. The guy also lives in the US enough that he has a US address; so, he's not completely unaware of the laws and customs here.

Having dealt with these types of situations first hand and having first hand witnesses come forward versus people who weren't there making unsupported accusations, I'll side with the officer on this one. I would only tackle somebody offering active physical resistance, but if it got to that point he would have been charged sufficiently.

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Malum Prohibitum said:
I think there is a picture of the officer in the other topic (linked above) with the jacket he was wearing (I think).
I just read the other thread and clicked on the link to the picture, but it didn't work.

I'm not buying the story that the guy didn't realize the officer was an officer. I've just heard that too many times from people that ran and/or fought officers that were clearly in uniform. This wasn't the first day the officers had been out there. They were there for traffic control for the conference. The leather jacket leads me to believe this was motor officer, and I'm pretty certain a badge would have been pinned to the front of it. Also, as pointed out, this guy was no fresh off the plane tourist.

Jaywalking is piddly, but if I were in a situation where I was working traffic control and I specifically game someone instruction to not cross and to move to a crosswalk only to have the person blow me off, I would have stopped them and possibly issued a citation(s) for jaywalking and/or disregarding an officer directing traffic. If they offered active physical resistance when I tried to stop them resulting in my having to take them down both of the above citations would have been accompnied with an obstruction charge and possibly disorderly conduct. If they pushed or shoved, a simple battery on a police officer would be there too.

To be clear though, I would not tackle someone if they were only walking away. That would only come with active physical resistance or the belief that such was imminent.

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A few years ago I was almost taken down by an APD off-duty officer for jaywalking. There was a group of them working security for a convention I was attending at the Marriott Marquis and the Hyatt. They had been allowing people to jaywalk across the street the entire day. I had crossed back and forth multiple times with them watching. Never a word was said.

As I crossed this time this officer stopped me, chewed me out, and made me turn around and go to the corner to cross. Not ten minutes later it was back to free flow back and forth across the road.

If it is illegal at 10:45 am, it should be illegal at 2:45 pm.
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