San Bernardino residents accuse officers of unprovoked attack

A gathering to mourn a San Bernardino man's death dissolved into a police melee Sunday evening, witnesses told the City Council on Monday.

Trina Newman, of Los Angeles, said the officers used foul language, punched and shoved bystanders, and used pepper spray indiscriminately.

About 25 residents of the Westside neighborhood where the clash occurred attended Monday's City Council meeting to describe what they called an unprovoked attack.

"We're not animals!" neighborhood resident Tommy Nelson Jr. told council members. "How would you guys feel if the police came when you were mourning a death? How would you feel?"

Police Chief Mike Billdt said police are investigating. Calling the case a confidential personnel matter, he declined to comment further.

Mayor Pat Morris said he was "deeply distressed" by neighborhood residents' reports.

Naenae McKenzie said the incident started about 7 p.m. Sunday, as 40 to 60 people were gathering for a candlelight vigil in memory of Charles Lawrence Marshall. Marshall, 22, was shot to death in the 1800 block of West Bradley Court shortly after midnight Saturday.

Nelson said he watched two phalanxes of police officers, with about 10 officers in each squad, stride toward the mourners and start to pick people out of the crowd.

"They were just snatching people up, with no questions, no nothing," he said.

He said he saw one officer speak briefly to a neighbor, McKenzie, then strike her in the face with his fist.

"He hit her twice like that: Bam! Bam! Just like she was a man," he said.

McKenzie confirmed the incident.

After the council meeting, Morris sought out Judith Little, Marshall's mother. Two of her sons were arrested Sunday.

"I'm deeply distressed by the reports that were made today by your neighbors and friends," Morris said.

"That was courageous and important, because these events are now well documented, and there will be a thorough investigation."

Reach Chris Richard at 909-806-3076 or crichard@PE.com

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