Park officers to keep beat
Judge denies protesters' plea
THE WASHlNGTON TlMES
Three U.S. Park Police officers -- including one who fatally
shot a knife-wielding homeless man in front of the White House --
can continue to patrol Lafayette Park despite a suit filed by
three anti-government demonstrators living there who say the
three harass them, a federal judge ruled yesterday.
U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey denied the protesters'
request for a temporary restraining order to bar the officers
because they could not prove the officers were an immediate
Security near the White House has been so threatened in recent
months that Park Police must retain their power to control the
area, the judge said.
However, Judge Richey set a hearing for Thursday on the
protesters' further motion for preliminary injunction against the
The protesters had asked Judge Richey to temporarily take the
three officers - Stephen O'Neill, Jeff Leon Capps and another
park policeman named only as "Keness"-- off their beat in
Lafayette Park until a civil suit they filed against the officers
has been settled. No trial date has been set.
The suit asks the officers to be kept from patrolling the park,
where they often "kick people and stick them with nightsticks,"
said William Thomas, a longtime anti-nuclear protester who filed
the suit Dec. 22.
"The plaintiffs have failed ... to meet the first tes," Judge
Richey said before denying the protester's request. "This is not
the first time these people have made sweeping allegations."
The failure to secure a temporary restraining order upset about
a dozen protesters -- mostly homeless men -- who sat through
Mr. Thomas, a bearded man with a long ponytail, said the three
officers regularly assert "intense psychological intimidation" on
people who loiter in the park across Pennsylwania Avenue from
the White House.
The protesters claim Officer O'Neill treated them particularly
poorly. But a spokesman for the Park Police said all of the
officers have simply been doing their job, which includes keeping
people from sleeping or camping in the park illegally.
The protesters assert that the harassment meted out by the
officers directly led to the fatal shooting of Marcelino Corniel,
33, on Dec. 20.
Mr. Thomas said Officer O'Neill has harassed people in the park
for months and that he kicked and prodded Mr. Corniel with a
nightstick on the morning the homeless man was shot.
"The shooting of Marcelino Corniel illustrates we're being put
in very dangerous situations," Mr. Thomas told the judge. "The
government won't suffer any ill effects if these three officers
are assigned elsewhere."
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Sally Rider said the officers have
done nothing wrong.
"We don't see any emergency" Mrs. Rider said. "When people are
sleeping in the park, they are awakened. There's certainly
nothing wrong with that."
The Associated Press contributed to this Article.
By Greg Seigle