Did They Beat Up The Can Lady? (UPDATED)

You can't miss the sprightly older black woman with the sign outside the Fort Lauderdale Police Department picketing on Broward Boulevard. One side of the sign reads "5 Police Beat Me," and on the other side is "Governor Stop Police Violence."

The woman is 57-year-old Mary Grey, who was apparently recently charged with resisting arrest with violence. After a few dubious resisting with violence cases (like this one and this one), it's getting harder and harder to trust the veracity of some of the police reports in these cases. 

Anyway, Grey feeds the homeless every week and walks around with a cart all over town picking up cans. Residences and businesses leave cans out special for her because she's been doing it for years. With one arm now in a sling, she claims she was beaten by police during an arrest.

I told you I was going to get the police version and now I have it. According to police, Grey argued with a male officer on April 6 as he was making an arrest on Northwest 9 Ave. The officer, Jason Van Choff, wrote in his report that Grey disrupted his investigation, saying to police, "Fuck y'all motherfuckers."

Van Choff wrote that Grey caused a large crowd to gather. "Gray then ran towards me with clenched fists stating, 'I'm going to kick your ass,'" he wrote in the report.

That's when he arrested her for disorderly conduct. (Note that he uses a different spelling; Mary told me her last name is spelled with an "e" so I'm sticking with that). Here's how he describes it: 

I chased Gray for just a few feet and placed a handcuff onto her right hand wrist and ordered her to give me her left hand. She failed to comply ... and kicked me in the left leg ... and then fell to the ground. ... She began to flail her body around on teh ground and kick at me. ... I was forced to let go of her left arm and deliver and [sic] open handed distraction technique to her right shoulder ... Gray allowed her body to go limp and I placed her into custody.

Question: What's an open-handed distraction technique.

He writes further that he transported her to the police department for booking but was unable to do so because of Gray's "violent nature." So he took her to the Broward County Jail.

"Upon our arrival I ... told Gray to step out of the vehicle. Gray flopped out of my patrol car and lay on the ground and stated, 'You just gonna have to carry me white boy.'"

Van Choff wrote that he did just that.

Grey has a different version. She claims she was thrown on the street and that a police officer put his foot on her spine. But it was later, as they tried to book her, that she claims the brunt of the beating took place. The problem is that it wasn't clear whether she was talking about the Fort Lauderdale station or BSO. She says that four female officers roughed up her up during the booking.  

"They put me in the car and took me to jail and said, 'Get out the car bitch.' I'm disabled and I said I couldn't," she said. "Then they drug me out and called me a 'motherfucking crackhead.' I never smoked crack in my life. They assumed, well, I don't know what they assumed, but they beat me. They would beat me and then pick me up and then beat me down again, over and over. They beat me all over my face. I'm still swollen."

She says the officers then took off all her clothes during booking in front of men and that they laughed at her when she was standing there naked.

"What is that?" she asked rhetorically. "It was terrible."

Grey, a small woman, says she would never try to fight any police officers.

"Everybody knows me around here," she says. "Everybody knows me and loves me in the ghetto. Look at me. How can I be violent? You think I'm going to fight the police?"

Well, it is rather farfetched to imagine Grey fighting police. It's impossible to determine if there was any real wrongdoing, though, without further investigation. Grey told me that Internal Affairs investigators approached her and told her they would look into it. But she turned them away.

"She tore up their cards," says police spokesman Frank Sousa.

Might as well. Whether or not the police did wrong in this case, the truth is that the department NEVER sustains excessive force complaints. Gray says she's speaking with an attorney, so we'll see if this goes any further.

-- In the meantime, I want to mention the memo (which Romenesko just beat me to publish) sent to Tribune employees wherein company honcho Randy Micheals said the company was asking the bankruptcy court for permission to pay $13 million in bonuses to managers, directors, and other employees. "This missive just pisses me off to no end," one local Tribune employee told me. "The powers that be are petitioning the bankruptcy court to allow 700 Tribune managers and officers to receive $13 million in bonuses. You know it's bad when even your propaganda piece on the subject comes off as defensive."

That's a reference to this line from Michaels and Gerry Spector: "These motions are likely to get media attention, so we would rather you first hear about them from us."

-- Following a years-long trend, Pulp readers still get a lot of big news before anyone else. The latest was the state investigation into former Anna Nicole Judge Larry Seidlin. The Sentinel and Herald both published stories Monday, more than three weeks after you read about it here (and a week after this one). More coming.


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