New Haven police chief visits, apologizes to teen in controversial video

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Watching video on the New Haven Independent of Chief Dean Esserman apologizing to a teen who’s facing charges for being involved in a fight has other officers beyond furious.

“We never saw this coming,” said Police Union President Lou Caviliere.

That’s not all Cavaliere is upset about. He says Chief Esserman and Mayor Toni Harp have given in to an angry group of people. The group has been protesting the arrest of 15-year-old Teandrea Cornelius during the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. There’s video of an officer throwing Cornelius to the ground while arresting her.

Tuesday afternoon, protesters showed up at Mayor Harp’s office demanding a meeting.

“I have asked him to put him on desk duty and he has agreed to do so,” the Mayor told the protesters, talking about her conversation with Chief Esserman. Officer Josh Smereczynsky, shown in the video, is now on desk duty.

Cavaliere says the officer did nothing wrong and Cornelius had a knife on her at the time.

“She doesn’t have our back here and what’s that say to the rank and file of this department?” he said.

Cavaliere says the officer initially found out he was on desk duty through word of mouth and social media. He also added Cornelius is still a suspect and the Chief crossed the line by going to her home apologizing.

“I’m here just as a person,” Esserman says to Cornelius in the New Haven Independent’s video. “I’m a parent too and I want you to know New Haven Police Department cares about you.”

Protesters demanded more action Tuesday, asking that the charges filed against Cornelius be dropped. They say she did nothing wrong and the officer used excessive force.

“That is your opinion, but there’s an investigation,” said Mayor Harp. “That is an opinion and there’s an investigation.”

Both Cornelius’s family and protesters also claimed this whole situation stems from Cornelius being bullied by an 18-year-old. They say the bullying was reported to police and Amistad High School. The school says that 18-year-old is not a student there, but they have been in contact with the victim and her family throughout this situation.

Our primary concern right now is providing support for the student and her family. That is where our attention is focused and we have been in regular contact with her and her family throughout this situation. For this student and all students, we always take concerns regarding bullying very seriously and respond immediately. The other student involved in this case is not a student at our school, but we are nevertheless committed to trying to address and resolve the challenge.” – Chris Bostock, Principal, Achievement First Amistad High School

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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