Caleb D. Schwartz

52 Minutes: Inside the Arrest of a Black Harvard Student

By Caroline S. Engelmayer, Angela N. Fu, Lucy Wang, and Michael E. Xie, Crimson Staff Writers

On April 13, a black Harvard undergraduate—naked and likely under the influence of narcotics—was arrested, tackled to the ground, and punched by police. The arrest has sparked allegations of police brutality and led to concerns and questions over who came to the student’s aid and why. Below, The Crimson annotates a timeline of the arrest and its aftermath partly provided by the Cambridge Police Department and confirmed with Cambridge Emergency Communications, the Harvard University Police Department, and Harvard University Health Services.

Friday, April 13, 2018

8:36 p.m. A friend of the student called Harvard University Health Services reporting the student was on Massachusetts Avenue—near Cambridge Common and across from Pound Hall—and was in need of urgent medical care.

8:36 p.m.

For much of the night April 13, the student was standing—naked and likely under the influence of narcotics—on the corner of Massachusetts Ave. and Waterhouse St., feet from the Law School’s Pound Hall, the location of Harvard University Health Services Urgent Care during non-business hours.

Harvard College has an “Amnesty Policy” outlined in the student handbook that states that, if a student seeks medical help for an intoxicated friend, neither the student nor the friend will “face disciplinary action from the College.”

“Any student may bring an intoxicated or drug-impaired friend to Harvard University Health Services or to a hospital, or seek assistance from College residential life staff or HUPD, and by doing this, neither they nor the friend will face disciplinary action from the College for having used or provided alcohol or drugs,” the handbook reads.

8:39 p.m. HUHS contacted Harvard University Police Department about the student.

8:39 p.m.

HUHS’s standard protocol is to contact the Harvard University Police Department for “any emergency concern related to a Harvard student,” according to an emailed statement from HUHS spokesperson Michael Perry.

Perry wrote that, after the arrest, HUHS conducted a review of its employees’ conduct April 13 and found they had followed its protocol.

“We have confirmed that HUHS’s standard protocol was followed,” Perry wrote.

8:40 p.m. HUPD then transferred HUHS to the Cambridge Police Department. Cambridge Emergency Communications received call from Harvard University Health Services stating that HUHS received a call from a woman saying her friend, a black male, was "tripping" and taking his clothes off around Cambridge Commons.

8:40 p.m.

The area where the student was standing—the corner of Massachusetts Ave. and Waterhouse St.—is not part of Harvard’s campus, so HUPD did not have jurisdiction over the case. Instead, the Cambridge Police Department had jurisdiction and consequently responded to the call.

“The Cambridge Police Department has jurisdiction over the entire City of Cambridge, including schools, campuses, businesses and state roadways,” CPD spokesperson Jeremy Warnick wrote in an emailed statement. “The University Police Departments generally patrol only the streets within their campuses.”

8:42 p.m. Emergency communications attempted to call back the original caller but after she picked up she said her phone battery was dying so she hung up.
8:43 p.m. Cambridge Police Department was dispatched to Cambridge Commons with the information that a Black male, was "tripping" and taking his clothes off. Officers could not locate the male.

8:42 p.m.

In a later tweet, the Cambridge Police Department wrote “it was learned from [the student’s] acquaintances that he previously took narcotics, which could have a hallucinogenic effect when ingested.”

The night coincided with Yardfest, the College’s annual outdoor concert.

8:50 p.m. Emergency Communications received a call from the original caller saying that help was no longer needed, so the officers cleared the area.
9:08 p.m. The original caller called 911 again to say that they were still in the Commons and were concerned about the male friend who was acting out again.
9:08 p.m. A second caller calls 911 reporting that the male took off his underwear and threw it in the face of a woman.
9:08 - 9:11 p.m. Four more calls were made to emergency communications about the naked male.

Police Jurisdictions

A map shows where the student was standing at the time of the arrest. The red-shaded area marks Harvard's campus, where HUPD has primary jurisdiction. The grey marks outside turf, where CPD has primary jurisdiction.
9:09 p.m. CPD dispatched to Cambridge Commons for the second time that night. CPD officers arrived at the scene and located the student.
9:12 p.m. A caller locates the male in the median of Mass Ave and says CPD officers are with the male.

9:09 p.m.

A video published online by the Cambridge Police Department shows the student standing on the median surrounded by four police officers, who talk to him for at least two minutes. The student then takes two steps towards one of the officers before taking a step back and raising his arms to chest-level.

A later CPD police report states the student clenched his fists and “started to take steps towards officers in an aggressive manner.” One officer standing behind the undergraduate then tackled him to the ground.

A statement from members of BLSA—some of witnessed the incident in person—disputes the police report and states the officer tackled the student “without provocation.”

While the police officers spoke with the student, a crowd gathered to watch the confrontation, according to video footage and the police report.

A witness of the arrest whom The Crimson granted anonymity due to legal concerns said he watched the incident for about five minutes while standing in a crowd of other people on the side of Mass Ave. He said there were at least 30 eyewitnesses on his side of the street. The witness also said many people in the crowd were videotaping the incident, and that one police officer worked to prevent individuals in the crowd from stepping into the street and approaching the student.

9:13 p.m. CPD officers request a professional ambulance to the scene.

9:13 p.m.

HUHS does not operate an ambulance service. In the days following the student’s arrest, a new undergraduate advocacy group—Black Students Organizing for Change—has demanded that Harvard purchase its own ambulance.

HUHS and the student-led EMT group, Crimson EMS, have had several conversations with the City of Cambridge regarding the feasibility of operating an ambulance, according to Perry. But city officials ultimately deemed Pro Ambulance, a local ambulance service, the “most appropriate service readily available to the Harvard community,” Perry added.

9:14 p.m. CPD officers report that the male is fighting with police on Waterhouse Street.

9:14 p.m.

A video later published by CPD shows four police officers struggling to pin the student to the ground after the first officer tackled him from behind.

While the student remained on the ground, at least one CPD officer punched the undergraduate in the stomach five times in an “ineffective” attempt to unpin the student’s arms and handcuff him, according to the CPD police report.

While the student was on the ground, CPD officers cuffed both his wrists and his ankles before loading him into the ambulance, according to the police report.

The witness who spoke to The Crimson said he saw lots of “struggling.”

“I don’t know if they had handcuffs on him yet, but it just looked like there was a lot of motion,” the witness said.

The arrested student was later charged with assault and resisting arrest.

9:16 p.m. A CPD officer requests that HUPD come to the scene because the male is a Harvard student.
9:17 p.m. CPD officers notify HUPD that the student was under arrest.
9:18 p.m. HUPD says they are en route to the scene.

9:16 p.m.

HUPD dispatched one officer to the scene, according to an emailed statement from HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano.

Members of BSOC later stated HUPD was “stretched thin” during Yardfest, with only eight officers on duty and five available for patrol.

Catalano confirmed that 5 officers were on patrol and that additional officers were monitoring Yardfest—the College’s annual outdoor concert—but wrote, “It is the policy of the HUPD not to get into specific staffing levels.”

“The dramatic increase of alcohol-related incidents (medical transports and an assault and battery on EMTs) tied up multiple officers at various times,” he wrote.

9:19 p.m. HUPD arrived on the scene. The student was already in an ambulance.

9:19 p.m.

The HUPD officer who arrived never saw the arrested student because he was already in the ambulance, according to a statement from Catalano.

The student spat a mixture of “saliva and blood” at an ambulance personnel, according to the CPD police report. The student was charged with assault and battery of an ambulance EMT.

9:28 p.m. The male is transported to Mt. Auburn hospital.
9:59 p.m. The student’s Faculty Dean was informed of the arrest.

9:28 p.m.

HUHS policy, as outlined in the student handbook, states that an undergraduate’s resident dean will be notified if a student is transferred to a local emergency department.

“It is HUHS’ policy to notify the College of student transfers to local emergency departments. Such notification is provided to the appropriate Resident Dean, and is documented at HUHS in the Transfer Tracking Log,” the handbook reads.

Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard Jr. said later on Monday that the student underwent evaluation for issues including mental health concerns, which was “one of the reasons” the student has yet to be arraigned.

Warnick wrote in a statement that the CPD officers who forcibly arrested the student that night “have yet to participate” in optional crisis intervention training meant to instruct officers how to manage situations involving mentally ill individuals.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

6:24 p.m. Harvard Black Law Students Association releases a statement condemning the incident as an instance of “police brutality.”

6:24 p.m.

The Harvard Black Law Students Association tweeted the night of the student’s arrest that the arrest was an instance of police brutality. The next day, BLSA held a meeting to update students and to provide people a platform to process the arrest. Immediately before the meeting, BLSA posted a press release on its site reiterating its belief that the incident is a “symptom of a larger, systemic problem” of police violence against black and brown people.

The statement also disputes CPD’s account of the arrest and lists several demands for CPD and Harvard institutions including HUHS and HUPD. The statement has since garnered support from a number of organizations, internal and external to Harvard.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

8:16 am Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern releases a statement calling the arrest “disturbing.”

8:16 am

Cambridge Mayor Marc C. McGovern posted a statement on Twitter calling a video of the arrest “disturbing” and stating he had been following the arrest and its aftermath closely. McGovern wrote that he and other city officials were in communication with CPD officials and local activists and were working assess the situation.

McGovern added that Cambridge “affirms that Black Lives Matter” and that he would work with other officials to ensure that the incident is “properly investigated” and that the public would be informed of any new developments.

“As Mayor, I will continue working with my colleagues to make sure that the horrific treatment of black Americans at the hands of law enforcement has no place in Cambridge," he wrote.

Monday, April 16, 2018

3:30 p.m. CPD holds a press conference on the incident and announces that the results of their internal review will be made public.

3:30 p.m.

CPD policy mandates that the department must conduct an internal review any time a police officer uses force. Bard said the results of the review will be made public.

“Whenever a police officer exercises any degree of force in the execution of his or her duties, the burden is on the police department to prove that such force was used in the accordance with department policy and established state and federal law,” the policy reads. “Because the police department carries an affirmative burden to demonstrate that the exercise of force was necessary and appropriate, the department must conduct a complete and thorough review of all such incidents.”

Bard said he “absolutely” supports the officers who arrested the student. He added, though, that he will not make final determinations before “completing a complete and thorough investigation.”

3:33 p.m. University President Drew G. Faust emails Harvard affiliates calling the incident “profoundly disturbing.”

3:33 p.m.

In her email to University affiliates, University President Drew G. Faust wrote that Harvard had been in contact with Cambridge city officials regarding the incident and that the University would continue to work with officials to address concerns about CPD. Though Faust did not explicitly mention whether Harvard would conduct an internal review of HUHS, HUPD, or other campus institutions, she did write that the University's work "will and must include hearing directly from students, faculty, and staff about their experiences, concerns, and ideas."

The incident “raises important issues about the relationship between police and the communities they serve, student health resources, and the manner in which University units operate with each other and with our partners in the community,” Faust wrote.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Harvard Law School Professors Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and Dehlia Umunna announce they will represent the student.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Professors Sullivan and Umunna, director and deputy director of the HLS Criminal Justice Institute respectively, released a statement announcing they would be acting as the student's attorneys.

The professors wrote that their focus is on the student's "health and well-being" and that they would not provide further comment until they deem it "necessary."

Sullivan previously represented the family of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man who was shot and killed by police officers in Ferguson, MO in 2014. Brown's death was one of several instances of police violence against black men that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Black Students Organizing for Change releases a list of demands for the University and holds a protest in front of University Hall.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Immediately after news of the arrest broke, students at the College started organizing. A group of undergraduates created a coalition—BSOC—whose mission is “hold Harvard University accountable for the safety of community members, particularly Black and Brown students.” The students released a statement outlining 10 demands for the University, HUHS, and HUPD and asked that the institutions respond by May 1.

BSOC also held a silent protest on Saturday during Visitas weekend to demand reform to the University processes they say led to the arrest. Over 200 Harvard affiliates participated in the protest.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Cambridge City Manager submits the FY19 budget, which outlines plans to create an Office of Procedural Justice to monitor police-citizen interactions.

Monday, April 23, 2018

City Manager Louis DePasquale submitted the budget proposal at a City Council meeting; included in the proposal is a new office that will “proactively” monitor incidents of racially biased policing and use of force within CPD. The office did not come specifically in response to the arrest of the student, but had been in the works since August 2017.

“Believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, the Office of Procedural Justice will focus on proactively monitoring data related to police-citizen interactions for indications of possible racial profiling, racially-biased policing, or use of force incidents,” the proposal reads.

Monday, April 30, 2018

University President Drew G. Faust forms a “review committee” to determine the exact sequence of events leading to the student’s forcible arrest.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The committee will also undertake a “systematic examination” of a wide variety of Harvard policies. Harvard Law School and History professor Annette Gordon-Reed will chair the committee.

“This work must start with a focus on how the changing nature of our student body should influence the ways in which we address issues of College policy, mental health resources, and community policing," Faust wrote to students.

Faust said she has asked the committee to complete its work over the summer and make findings and initial recommendations for action before the start of the fall 2018 semester.

The announcement of the committee met BSOC’s May 1 deadline—but Faust later said the committee did not come as a direct response to student demands.