Yale University Questions Force Used by New Haven Police During Club Raid

Five Yale University students were arrested during the raid of Elevate Lounge.

October 4, 2010, 4:02 PM

Oct. 5, 2010— -- New Haven Police Department officers are accused of using excessive force during a raid of a Yale University party where cops allegedly brandishing semi-automatic weapons tasered a student before arresting several others.

Jordan Jefferson, the student who was tasered, had to be hospitalized following the incident. A total of five students were arrested during the raid.

According to Yale University, several students have reported "serious concerns" about the behavior of the officers who showed up at Elevate Lounge in New Haven, Conn., during the early morning hours of Oct. 2.

The owner of the nightclub likened the officers' behavior to a "terrorist attack" and says he's considering filing a lawsuit.

Police entered the club, which was being rented out by two colleges at Yale for a private dance party, to do a "compliance check," according to Joe Avery, public information officer for NHPD.

Avery said that there were 256 people in the club, 100 more than permitted by the fire marshall, police said. The officers police began to "defuse the chaotic situation and safety hazards in Elevate."

How officers attempted to do this is what students are saying got out of control.

Yale undergraduate student Jaya Wen told the student newspaper, Yale Daily News, that "the government's crime-fighting strategy was unnecessarily violent and confrontational."

Other students at the party, speaking anonymously, claimed that they had been grabbed by police officers, pushed up against the wall, and cursed at.

Molly Miller, the dean of Yale College, said in a statement, "We know that many students have experienced a very disturbing event. We have heard their voices, and we are committed to pursuing an appropriate resolution of the issues."

Neither Jefferson nor the other student named in the police report, Zachary Fuhrer, were able to be reached for comment. Whether they had retained legal counsel was not immediately known. It was also not known if Jefferson was at the legal drinking age.

The police department defended their actions in a written statement, writing, "Elevate presented such a risk that it was necessary to respond with a strong police presence that involved members of the SWAT team as support to the limited bar detail that was already in place."

Yale Students Claim New Haven Police Acted Too Aggressively During Raid

The NHPD argues that the scene inside Elevate "created serious safety hazards" and the fact that it was "58 percent over legal occupancy" was an "aggregious violation."

Officials also note "other violations" such as underage drinking and allowing patrons of all ages inside the club.

A Yale University spokesman said that those who were not 21 and were not allowed to legally drink were not given a bracelet that would allow them to be served at the bar, and were not permitted to drink inside the establishment.

According to the statement, Jefferson hit a police officer when he was being arrested and "had to be tased to be brought under control."

John Carta, the attorney for Alchemy Nightclub which runs Elevate Lounge, told ABCNews.com that he has put the New Haven Chief of Police "on notice" pending further investigation of what happened last weekend.

"The information we're getting seems to indicate that the policemen who raided this place were completely out of control and brandishing weapons all over the place, swearing left and right," said Carta. "There were some alleged assaults – students were people pushed and proded."

Carta says he saw a photograph of the incident in which one officer appeared to be holding an "uzi-looking weapon."

Carta, who has representated the club for 15 years, said he's never had problems with Yale students who he characterized as "well-behaved" and that the club is often rented out for off-campus parties.

"The arguement that this was due to underage drinking or overcapacity is absolutely a smoke screen," said Carta. "The way they hanlded it was like a terrorist attack, it was totally out of control."

As for the pending investigation, the police department said, "The City of New Haven and the NHPD does not tolerate unprofessional or improper behavior by any officer, and will investigate fully any complaint or reasonable suspicion of that kind of behavior."

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