"He was taken as a criminal"
Family is getting ready to sue The Philadelphia Police Department for beating down a boy.
On August 31 of this year, on the corner of Percy Street and Erie Avenue, Heriberto Fuentes, 13, was beaten by police officers from Philadelphia upon “confusing him with a criminal”, according to that stated by the mother of this minor.
Arily Montserrat said that on that day, her son was playing outside their home in Northern Philadelphia, when she heard a stranger enter her house.
“It all happened so quickly, I was with my friends and family, when I came down stairs I saw my friend struggling with a young man, between 25 y 30 years old, and began to cry for help. That’s when I thought about my kids and when I lost sight of Heriberto”, Montserrat stated.
A normal day of playing soccer with his friends from the block turned into a nightmare for Heriberto, leaving both physical and emotional scarred, according to his mother.
Yaitza Santiago witnessed that which occurred on Sunday at 8:30 pm. Santiago, a friend of the family, was on the back porch of the Montserrat’s house, when she heard the crying and screaming of the children.
She remembers finding herself face to face with the presumed fugitive when she entered the house and that the fugitive offered her money in exchange for allowing him to stay in her friend’s house.
When Montserrat came down the stairway, we both pushed the man out or the house with all our strength (…), the children were scarred and we feared for the safety of our children”, Santiago stated.
While Montserrat was searching all over her house for Heriberto, the child was being arrested and “brutally” beaten by police officers from the 25th District, Santiago stated.
“When all the children saw over 15 police cars reach our block, they were scared and ran inside to take refuge”, she added.
“My son suffers from muscular dystrophy and cannot run quickly. When he saw all the policemen he got scared and tried to hide behind the neighbor’s car and that made him look suspicious”, Montserrat explained.
“They pulled out their guns and handcuffed him. I had to call my lawyer and press for him to be released and all this took place in a matter of 50 minutes”, she continued to report.
On the street, some 30 individuals joined forces to demand that Heriberto be freed, according to that stated by neighbors. According to witnesses, the people shouted that the boy was not guilty and that an injustice was being committed.
“Heriberto was arrested and threatened with a firearm. They unfairly assumed that he was the accomplice of a presumed criminal applying brutality on the minor”, Kendra Olen, another witness, asserted.
“I have three children and they saw how the beat Heriberto. It made a strong impression on the children, who know question why the police mistreated only one child”.
According to Montserrat, her son, in a nervous breakdown before being taken to the hospital, began to ask for forgiveness for having been outside his house and had to miss school during the first week of the school year.
According to the lawyer in charge of this case, Debora Ciansrani, for the time being only four officers involved in the beating have been identified.
“We have had to wait before filing suit and have accumulated medical information the eyewitnesses of the case so as to have all the necessary proof we need to win this case,” Ciansrani asserted. She specified that “the lawsuit will proceed within a month’s time”.
According to Heriberto’s lawyer, the beating produced wounds and swelling throughout his whole body and he had to be hospitalized for eight hours.
“My client has been calm and her son continues with the therapy that she is paying for. Though Montserrat has not received an answer from the Philadelphia Police Department, she has taken legal steps to proceed with this suit (…) and we have medical proof and attending therapy as a result of this violation”, Ciansrani added.
“This is a case of abuse of power and negligence. It is sad to know that, as in the case of my child, this can happen to any other child that is outside playing on the street, not expecting to be brutally threatened and beaten”, Montserrat said.
The Police Department said the case is under investigation.