Snowball leads to charges and accusations

March 10, 2010 4:00:48 PM PST
The men claim they accidently hit an off-duty transit officer with that snowball. The incident transformed into a dangerous situation when the officer pulled a gun on them.

The snowball hit the officer on Nelson Avenue in the Bronx last month, and it caused an avalanche of problems for the young men who threw it.

"He pointed at me, and then he was pointing at all my friends? with the gun," defendant Manuel Rondon said.

They say the off-duty officer pulled out a gun without identifying himself, and then ordered them down to the ground, hands where he could see them.

"I was scared. I thought i was going to get killed right there," defendant Christian Perez said.

Tenth grader Anthony Aquino is the only one in the group whose charges have now been dropped because of his age.

"He was threatening us. He was pointing it at us," Aquino said.

The young men have now hired a lawyer because they're charged with weapon possession, attempted assault, menacing and harassment.

Their lawyer calls the charges ridiculous, especially over a little fun in a big snow storm.

"The only crime that was committed here is a lack of common sense on the officer, who took his weapon out and held these 5 youngsters, at gunpoint, over a snowball," attorney Neil Wollerstein said.

Still, according to the criminal complaint, the group was menacing. The police officer claimed that one of them yelled in Spanish, "Let's jump him." He also claimed that he did identify himself as an officer.

"He didn't say 'I'm a cop.' He says, 'Do you know who I am?' That's all he said. 'Do you know who you're messing with.' Something like that, like taunting us. He was taunting us," Perez said.

The building does have several surveillance cameras pointing at and around where this happened, but the defendants said they have been told, there is no video available from that day.

Following their arrest, they spent a day and a half in police custody.

"I'm just really angry about it. I got locked up for a snowball," Johnathan Rodriguez said.

They're now contemplating a multi-million dollar civil suit.