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HUPD Officer Involved In February Smith Center Arrest Criticized For Use of Force In Two Prior Incidents

Smith Center Homelessness
Chloe I. Yu

The Smith Campus Center has policies that prohibit individuals from sleeping in its common spaces.

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UPDATED: March 11, 11:30 a.m.

Anthony T. Carvello, a Harvard University police officer who came under scrutiny last month for his use of force in an arrest at the Smith Campus Center, has also received criticism for his use of force in two other recent arrests of homeless black men at the Smith Center.

Carvello, 61, put his hand on one man’s neck during a September arrest, according to video footage. The man said he could not breathe as a result.

Four months later, Carvello wrote in a police report that he pepper-sprayed another man during a January arrest. The man said in both a conversation with a HUPD sergeant after the arrest and an interview with The Crimson that Carvello, who is white, called him a “n----r.”

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Just two weeks ago, witnesses criticized Carvello for pushing a man to the floor while arresting him for trespassing in the Smith Center. In its most recent meeting, Harvard’s student government condemned Carvello’s actions.

Witnesses to the September arrest and the February arrest said they believe Carvello used excessive force. Two said they expressed their concerns directly to the department.

Four HUPD officers familiar with the arrests, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from the department, said they believe Carvello used excessive force in one or more of the arrests.

The four HUPD officers also said they believe the department should have removed Carvello from his post in the Smith Center pending investigation.

Catalano wrote in his emailed statement that the department reviewed all three incidents and found that Carvello did not violate HUPD’s guidelines.

“For all three arrests in question there were supervisory reviews of the use of force. In all three incidents the supervisor found that the force was reasonable and within HUPD’s Policies and Guidelines,” Catalano wrote.

Prior to these incidents, Carvello had issued all three men trespass warnings for the Smith Center. In all three cases, HUPD charged the arrestees with violating their trespass warnings and resisting arrest.

“The Department does not comment on details about individual circumstances,” Catalano wrote. “The most common categories of conduct which lead to issuance of a trespass warning are: violation of building use rules (e.g. sleeping, noise), theft, vandalism, intoxication, disruption, and violent or threatening behavior.”

All three men — who are 20, 21, and 22 years old — are defendants in ongoing criminal cases at Cambridge District Court or Cambridge District Homeless Court that resulted from the charges.

When he began working at the Smith Center, Carvello was assigned to patrol one of Harvard’s most public spaces. According to its website, the Smith Center “fosters a welcoming and vibrant entrance to Harvard University” for University affiliates, visitors, and Cambridge residents alike. The building sits in the center of Harvard Square.

In addition to his patrol position, Carvello is also one of the department’s defensive tactics instructors, a position in which he teaches HUPD officers best practices for de-escalating situations.

Sept. 29, 2019

On Sept. 29, 2019 at around 9:30 a.m., Carvello approached Terry T. Jackson, 20, to whom he had previously issued a trespass warning, on the second level of the Campus Center, according to a publicly available incident report.

Carvello wrote in the report that he informed Jackson that he was violating his trespass warning and that Jackson used expletives to describe him while Carvello waited for backup.

Carvello wrote that he pushed Jackson’s head down after he allegedly refused Carvello’s order to place his hands behind his back for an arrest, according to the incident report.

“He refused and grabbed onto one of the several beams lined up inside of the windows,” Carvello wrote. “In an attempt to disengage Mr. Jackson from the beam, I attempted to place him off balance by pushing his head down to the left with my right hand; results were negative.”

According to video footage capturing part of the incident, Carvello put his hand on Jackson’s neck before putting him in handcuffs. Three other officers also arrived on scene to help assist Carvello.

Jackson said in an interview with The Crimson that he could not breathe when Carvello grabbed his neck and said he had an anxiety attack during the arrest.

“It’s just that the officer was pressing his arm against my neck. My neck was hurting. It was through the back of my throat all the way down my spine where my tailbone is. And he literally pushed me against the window, took my arm, he put it all the way up behind my back,” he said.

Aryana S. Watkins, 22, Jackson’s girlfriend, said in an interview with The Crimson that she saw Jackson crying as he was placed in the back of an HUPD car.

Isabel M. Levin ’22 and Quinn T. Lewis ’22, who witnessed the arrest, said in interviews they believe Carvello used excessive force while arresting Jackson. Levin said she called the department’s station later that day and expressed concerns regarding Carvello’s use of force.

Three HUPD officers familiar with the arrest said it was inappropriate that Carvello put his hands on Jackson’s neck and that the department should have removed him from the Smith Center pending investigation.

“The officer arresting Jackson did place his hands on Jackson’s head in an effort to get him to disengage from the column he grabbed onto while resisting arrest,” Catalano wrote.

Four months after the arrest, the department selected Carvello to be one of the department’s two patrol officers of the Smith Center. Officers in this post have flexible weekday schedules.

“The central and open nature of the SCC’s public spaces lends itself to increased activity,

including behaviors that do not abide by the rules of the space,” Catalano wrote. “Our officers assigned to the SCC are required to respond to more issues than they might otherwise in another part of campus.”

Jan. 28, 2020

On Jan. 28 at approximately 11:22 a.m., Carvello was dispatched to the Smith Center to respond to a report of an “unwanted guest” on the second floor according to a publicly available incident report Carvello wrote.

As Carvello climbed the steps to the second level, he saw Isaiah L. Scott, 22, to whom he had given a trespass warning the previous day.

Carvello wrote in his report that as he approached Scott, Scott walked away from him toward the Wellness Center on the second floor of the Smith Center. Carvello wrote that, because Scott had allegedly been “non-compliant” in their interaction the day before, Carvello drew his pepper spray as he pursued Scott “in the event Mr. Scott became non-compliant.”

Carvello approached Scott near the elevators and told him he was under arrest for trespassing, according to the report. He then ordered Scott to put his hands behind his back.

Carvello wrote that Scott refused his orders and repeatedly asked to speak to Carvello’s supervisor. Carvello added that he threatened to pepper-spray Scott.

“He stated; ‘No!! get me your Supervisor!’ I stated; ‘Don’t make me spray you!’. I told him again to turn around and put his hands behind his back; to which he replied again; ‘No!! get me your Supervisor!” Carvello wrote.

Carvello wrote that he pepper-sprayed in Scott’s direction. Scott dodged the spray and attempted to run away from Carvello. Carvello then followed Scott, repeatedly demanded that he put his hands behind his back, and sprayed him two more times, making contact with Scott’s face.

“I followed him and repeated commands to stop and put his hands behind his back,” Carvello wrote. “I sprayed two more times hitting him once on the side of his face and once directly in his eyes. I secure[d] him against the wall and waited for backup to arrive.”

Six HUPD officers arrived at the scene to assist Carvello with handcuffing Scott, according to Carvello’s report. As the group of officers attempted to pin Scott to the wall, Carvello wrote, Scott’s resistance allegedly intensified, prompting Carvello to tell the officers to move Scott to the ground.

“It was at that time that I yelled to the group to put him on the floor. Mr. Scott was forced to the floor where handcuffing was completed,” Carvello wrote.

Scott said in a Monday interview with The Crimson that he attempted to leave the Smith Center after he first saw Carvello. He said when Carvello approached him, Carvello called him a “n----r.”

Scott said Carvello pepper-sprayed him without any warning, and that other HUPD officers arrived and slammed him to the floor. He said he sustained a rug burn to his cheek that was exacerbated by his skin’s exposure to the pepper-spray.

Roughly a week after the arrest, Scott said he went to HUPD headquarters to retrieve his belongings and told two HUPD employees Carvello harassed him and used excessive force during his arrest. Scott said the employees told him they would look into his allegations. He also said they never followed up with him.

Scott said he believes Carvello used force while arresting him because he is black.

“I never thought I'd be a victim of police brutality. The way I carry myself even though I'm homeless, I still look decent,” he said. “I try to articulate myself the best way I can. I try to present myself professionally.”

Scott also said he has sought counseling because of the incident with Harvard’s police.

Catalano wrote that the department is conducting an investigation into the arrest and that it is HUPD policy not to comment on ongoing investigations.

HUPD Sergeant James P. Pignone, 53, arrived at the scene of Scott’s arrest at approximately 11:30 a.m. He wrote in a report that Scott was “very agitated” while they waited for an ambulance and that Scott told him he wanted to file a complaint against Carvello.

“Scott said that he was being harassed by Officer Carvello,” Pignone wrote. “That he (Scott) had done nothing wrong, that he wasn’t trespassing and that Officer Carvello had just walked up to him, called him a n----r and sprayed him with pepper spray.”

Catalano wrote in his statement that the department allows officers to use pepper spray and force in certain situations.

“By Department policy officers are allowed to use Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) spray,” Catalano wrote. “HUPD officers are instructed to use only the amount of force that is reasonably necessary to deescalate the incident and bring it under control. If de-escalation does not work, officers may apply an escalating level of force to meet the level of resistance.”

Pignone wrote in another report that he assessed the arrest, finding that Carvello’s use of force was appropriate.

“I conclude that Off. Carvello’s use of force, in attempt to gain control of Scott and stop him from his aggressive and non compliant behavior, was within HUPD’s policies and guidelines,” he wrote.

Three officers in the department familiar with the situation disagree with Pignone’s assessment. They told The Crimson they believe Carvello used excessive force while arresting Scott.

Feb. 20, 2020

On Feb. 20 at approximately 11 a.m., Carvello approached Tyrique D. Simmons, 21, who had an active trespass warning for all Harvard University property, on the first floor of the Smith Center, according to two internal HUPD incident reports written by Carvello.

Carvello wrote that he approached Simmons, who was walking from the Smith Center’s common area toward its main hallway.

As Simmons attempted to leave, Carvello “put [his] hands on [Simmons’s] chest and shoulder area and guided him toward the wall,” according to the first report.

The two men grappled near a column across from the elevators, according to the police reports. Simmons then made an attempt to run away and Carvello grabbed Simmons and backed him into the column, where Carvello told him he was under arrest.

Carvello wrote in the first internal report that Simmons’s resistance intensified after Carvello told Simmons he was under arrest. Specifically, he wrote that he “could feel his body tighten and lean forcefully toward mine.”

Carvello wrote in both reports that he punched Simmons to preempt an assault.

“I struck Mr. Simmons with a short strike to the left side of his face with my right fist,” he wrote in the second report.

Simmons said in an interview with The Crimson that he was attempting to leave the Smith Center when Carvello stopped him. He added that Carvello grabbed him and punched him in the face.

During the incident, Simmons told Carvello, “I didn’t do anything,” according to Carvello’s reports and video footage.

On the day of the arrest, three witnesses said they believed Carvello used excessive force when arresting Simmons. One witness said she filed a complaint with HUPD the same day.

Simmons told The Crimson he feared for his life during the arrest and that he has since experienced heightened stress. His mother, Tanya L. Simmons, 42, said her son has avoided physical contact in the weeks since the arrest.

Several hours after the arrest, Carvello submitted a report detailing the incident to an internal HUPD database.

According to an officer in the department, the report was updated the following day with new details that were not included in the previous report.

“Every incident report written is reviewed by a supervisor as well [as] other department personnel as part of a quality control process,” Catalano wrote. “When an error or additional information that should have been added is identified, officers will update either their initial report or add a supplemental narrative to [the] initial report.”

Carvello wrote in the first report that he struck Simmons on the left side of his face.

“Mr. Simmons[’s] resistance appeared to increase after I told him that he was under arrest,” the section of the first report describing Carvello’s use of force reads. “I held him against the column by placing both of my hands on his chest and shoulder area. While holding him, I could feel his body tighten and lean forcefully toward mine. Feeling that an assault was imminent, I struck Mr. Simmons [on] the left side of his face with my right fist.”

Carvello’s second report includes a more detailed account of both Simmons’s behavior and the incident more broadly.

“Mr. Simmons resisted my attempts to get control of him by repositioning his feet, striking my hands away in an aggressive manner, swing[ing] his hips from side to side and mov[ing his] hands up and down, as I attempted to take hold of at least one of them,” Carvello wrote. “Finally, I was able to get hold of Mr. Simmons’ body. It was at this moment that I felt his body get tight and begin to push toward me. These pre-assault cues [led] me to think that I was about to be tackled or pushed to the ground. Sensing that an assault was imminent, I struck Mr. Simmons with a short strike to the left side of his face with my right fist.”

In the first report, Carvello wrote that he forced Simmons to the floor before other officers arrived at the scene.

“The strike both distracted and stopped Mr. Simmons’ advance. It also provided me with the opportunity to force him to the floor. Mr. Simmons tucked his hands under his body” as two other officers arrived, according to Carvello’s first report.

In the second report, Carvello added that he drew his pepper spray while Simmons was on the floor.

“At this point I ordered Mr. Simmons to put his hand behind his back, he refused,” Carvello wrote in the second report. “I drew my department issued OC spray and once again ordered Mr. Simmons to place his hands behind his back to which he refused. I yelled in a loud voice, ‘Don’t make me spray you’. I thought about the cross contamination to the many visitors to the SCC if I were to spray Mr. Simmons. I secured my OC and continued to control him on the floor.”

While Carvello stood over Simmons, he repeatedly threatened to use his pepper spray, according to a partial video of the arrest. Two HUPD officers arrived on scene and helped handcuff Simmons, according to both versions of the report.

Three HUPD officers familiar with the situation said they believe Carvello used excessive force with Simmons.

Former Boston Police Department lieutenant and current Emmanuel College sociology professor Thomas Nolan called the number of allegations raised against Carvello over the past several months unusual.

“You've got three instances of excessive force allegations in six months,” he said. “That's a lot. That's more than most police officers will accrue over the course of a 25- or 30-year career.”

—Staff writer Ema R. Schumer can be reached at ema.schumer@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @emaschumer.

—Staff writer Charles Xu can be reached at charles.xu@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @charles_xu_27.

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