08/09/09 — Controversial arrest ends in plea deal

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Controversial arrest ends in plea deal

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on August 9, 2009 2:00 AM

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story originally ran in the July 31, 2009 print edition of the Goldsboro News-Argus.

A case that drew complaints from the NAACP over the actions of two Goldsboro police officers ended in a plea deal on July 30.

Tavares Allen, 17, of John Court, had faced two counts of felony-level assault on a police officer, among other charges.

In exchange for pleading guilty to two counts of resisting police, Allen, who had no previous convictions, was sentenced to 18 months probation.

Judge Charles P. Gaylor also imposed a 30-day suspended jail sentence, which could take effect if Allen violates the terms of his probation.

The case began on March 29 when police were called upon to serve a warrant on Allen.

A caller had called police to tell them Allen was in the Alpha Arms apartment complex, police testified. Police also had a description of the clothing Allen would be wearing, they said.

The two officers, Orlando Rosario and Philip French, said a number of people were milling about in the parking lot of Alpha Arms apartments when they arrived around 4:30 p.m.

The two policemen said Rosario made up a story about a lost dog, in an attempt to make the crowds of people less nervous.

Then, after telling Allen that he had an active warrant, Allen ran from the police, according to court testimony.

French chased the 17-year-old for less than 20 yards before bringing him to the ground.

During that time, Rosario testified, the crowd of people was advancing toward the officers, many of them holding cell phone cameras.

Rosario used threats of pepper spray and his service weapon, asking the crowd to back up. The officer testified that neither attempt worked. During that time, Rosario realized that French was having trouble handcuffing Allen, he said.

He then switched places with the 20-year-old officer, who was his trainee, and told him to "shoot the (expletive) in the head if he gets any closer."

Rosario testified he trusted French to "read between the lines," and "play the crowd," and did not actually intend for someone be "(shot) in the head."

District Attorney Branny Vickory questioned Rosario about his instruction to the young officer.

Vickory said he worried, in such an emotionally charged situation, that French could have made a mistake and actually shot someone in the head.

When the district attorney made a statement to Judge Gaylor about the plea deal, he acknowledged that he believed police might have acted improperly. However, he said, the officers were simply doing their job.

"Regardless of what you think about the manner in which the officers (made) the arrest, they were carrying out their duty, which was to place under arrest a man ... who had two warrants," Vickory said.