NEW YORK CITY, NY — A Staten Island family barbecue turned into a nightmare when it was interrupted by police investigating the improper use of a parking cone to save a parking spot on the street. What resulted was a day the family will never forget, as their home was invaded without a warrant, several family members were bludgeoned, and a NYPD officer sadistically stomped on a pet parakeet that lay helpless on the floor.
The incident occurred on September 2nd, 2012, as the family of Evelyn Lugo celebrated Labor Day at their St. George neighborhood home. Ms. Lugo, 57, and her children and grandchildren were at the home eating and enjoying each other’s company.
When Ms. Lugo’s son Edwin Avellanet, 26, went outside to dispose of a bag of garbage, he was approached by police investigating a parking cone. Someone had placed a cone on the street to reserve a parking spot without city permission. Mr. Avellanet was stopped and questioned about the suspicious cone, but insisted that he had done nothing wrong.
Not accepting his denial, police demanded identification. Mr. Avellanet had nothing to show them. When he was grabbed by the arm by one of the officers, he broke free and retreated into the house.
Mr. Avellanet went into the residence and closed the door. The NYPD did not take kindly to this, beating on the door, breaking through the windows, and forcing their way into the home. Backup officers poured into the house.
Looking for Mr. Avellanet — the suspected cone placer — police went around breaking doors in half, attacking family members with pepper spray, and bludgeoning people with clubs.
“They threw me like a piece of garbage on the floor,” Evelyn Lugo said.
Her son, George Lugo, and family friend Luis Ortega were attacked repeatedly with a baton and suffered severe facial injuries.
Evelyn Lugo’s daughter, Alba Cuevas, was attacked with chemical pepper spray and retreated into a bathroom when she started suffering from an asthma attack. Police ripped her out and arrested her.
As officers stormed the house, they knocked a birdcage off of a dresser. The small green parakeet, Tito, was flung helplessly from the cage, landing on the floor. NY Daily News reported what happened next:
“I screamed, ‘The bird!’ ” Lugo’s daughter Anna Febles told the Daily News, “and he said, ‘F— the bird,’ and he, like, stepped on it.”
“I was shocked,” Febles, 30, said. “It was a blue and green bird. It was really pretty.”
Pictures taken after the even show the wounds suffered by several family members.
The death of the bird was concealed from Evelyn Lugo by her family until the following day. Her family didn’t think she could take any more heartbreak after watching her home get destroyed and her loved ones arrested.
“They (the cops) don’t care about us as humans, they’re going to care about the bird?” Ms. Lugo later commented. She said she has suffered from depression and emotional scars since the incident.
Luis Ortega, George Lugo and Alba Cuevas were arrested, but the charges against them were later dropped and sealed. The original target of the stop-and-harass, Edwin Avellanet, was not charged.
Police had no evidence that Mr. Avellanet had committed a crime, and he was not being detained. NYPD had no warrant, which is the basis for one of the complaints in a lawsuit filed in late November 2013. The suit also alleges unlawful search and seizure, excessive force and malicious prosecution.
Lawsuit: Ana Gregorio, Alba Cuevas, Crystal Cruz, Edwin Avellanet, Evelyn Lugo, George Lugo and Luis Ortega v. John and Jane Doe 1 through 10, Mary Gillespie, Charles Drobness, Ralph Conde, City of New York and Thomas Nigro (rfcexpress.com)