AHarvard University police officer is facing major criticism for his use of force in three recent incidents involving young homeless Black men on its main campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
According to The Harvard Crimson, the school’s student-run newspaper, Officer Anthony T. Carvello, 61, first received criticism in September of last year when he put his hand on a man’s neck at the Smith Center and the man said he couldn’t breathe. According to an incident report, Carvello, who is white, approached Terry T. Jackson, 20, to whom he had previously given a trespass warning. In his report, Carvello said that he told Jackson that he was violating his trespass warning and that Jackson used expletives to describe him while Carvello waited for backup to arrive.
Carvello claimed he pushed Jackson’s head down after he allegedly refused Carvello’s order to put his hands behind his back for an arrest. According to video that captured the incident, Carvello put his hand on Jackson’s neck before placing him in handcuffs. Three backup officers also eventually arrived on the scene.
Jackson told The Crimson that he was unable to breathe when Carvello grabbed his neck and explained that he had an anxiety attack during the incident. Jackson’s girlfriend Aryana S. Watkins, 22, told The Crimson that she witnessed Jackson crying as he was placed in the back of a Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) car. Two other people who witnessed the arrest also said they believe Carvello used excessive force while apprehending Jackson, and one of the witnesses said she called the department’s station later that day to express her concerns. Her efforts didn’t seem to work, however, because four months after the arrest, Carvello was selected by the department to be one of its two patrol officers of the Smith Center.
“The central and open nature of the SCC’s public spaces lends itself to increased activity, including behaviors that do not abide by the rules of the space,” wrote HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano. “Our officers assigned to the SCC are required to respond to more issues than they might otherwise in another part of campus.”
Three HUPD officers familiar with the incident felt it was inappropriate for Carvello to put his hands on Jackson’s neck and they argue that the department should have removed him from the Smith Center pending investigation.
The second incident involving Carvello occurred in January. He was dispatched to the Smith Center to respond to a report of an “unwanted guest” on the second floor, according to a publicly available incident report Carvello penned. As Carvello ascended the steps to the second floor, he came upon Isaiah L. Scott, 22, to whom he had given a trespass warning the previous day.
Scott walked away and Carvello pursued him with his pepper spray drawn, according to his incident report, because Scott had allegedly been “non-compliant” the day before. According to the report, Carvello approached Scott near the elevators and told him he was under arrest for trespassing and he told him to place his hands behind his back.
Carvello wrote that Scott was non-compliant and he repeatedly asked to speak to Carvello’s supervisor. This is when Carvello said that he threatened to pepper spray Scott. Carvello said Scott still wouldn’t comply and eventually he sprayed in Scott’s direction. Scott dodged the spray and attempted to flee Carvello.
“I followed him and repeated commands to stop and put his hands behind his back,” Carvello wrote. “I sprayed two more times hitting him once on the side of his face and once directly in his eyes. I secure[d] him against the wall and waited for backup to arrive.”
Eventually, six HUPD officers came to assist with handcuffing Carvello, who was eventually moved to the ground to finish the arrest.
HUPD Sergeant James P. Pignone, 53, arrived at the scene and wrote in a report, “Scott said that he was being harassed by Officer Carvello, that he (Scott) had done nothing wrong, that he wasn’t trespassing and that Officer Carvello had just walked up to him, called him a ni**er and sprayed him with pepper spray.”
“By Department policy, officers are allowed to use Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) spray,” Catalano wrote of the incident. “HUPD officers are instructed to use only the amount of force that is reasonably necessary to deescalate the incident and bring it under control. If de-escalation does not work, officers may apply an escalating level of force to meet the level of resistance.”
Despite Catalano’s statement and a report by Pignone saying Carvello’s arrest was appropriate, three officers in the department familiar with the case said they believe Carvello used excessive force while arresting Scott. An investigation into this arrest is ongoing.
Finally, the third incident involving Carvello occurred on Feb. 20, on the first floor of the Smith Center. At 11 a.m., he approached Tyrique D. Simmons, 21, who had an active trespass warning for all Harvard University property, according to two internal HUPD incident reports written by Carvello.
Carvello wrote that he approached Simmons and as Simmons attempted to leave, Carvello “put [his] hands on [Simmons’s] chest and shoulder area and guided him toward the wall,” according to the first report.
The two of them had a bit of a scuffle near a column across the elevators, according to the police report. Simmons then tried to run away and Carvello grabbed Simmons and backed him into the column where Carvello stated that he was under arrest. Carvello wrote that once he said this, Simmons’ resistance intensified and he punched Simmons to prevent an assault. Simmons corroborated the punch in an interview with the Crimson.
According to Carvello’s reports and video footage, Simmons told Carvello “I didn’t do anything” during the incident. On the day of the arrest, three witnesses said Carvello used excessive force when apprehending Simmons and one of the witnesses said she filed a complaint with HUPD that day.
Simmons told the Crimson that he feared for his life during the incident and since then, he’s suffered heightened stress. His mother, Tanya L. Simmons, 42, even said her son has avoided physical contact since the arrest occurred.
According to The Crimson, Carvello submitted two different reports detailing the incident to an internal HUPD database. In the second report, Carvello is more detailed in describing Simmons’ behavior and the incident, adding details such as how he drew his pepper spray after he forced Simmons to the floor. A partial video of the arrest corroborated these claims where Carvello repeatedly threatened to use the spray. Two HUPD officers eventually arrived on the scene to assist with handcuffing Simmons, according to both versions of the report.
Once again, with this third incident, three officers familiar with the situation believe Carvello used excessive force with Simmons. Former Boston Police Department lieutenant and current Emmanuel College sociology professor Thomas Nolan even called the allegations against Carvello unusual.
“You’ve got three instances of excessive force allegations in six months,” he said. “That’s a lot. That’s more than most police officers will accrue over the course of a 25 or 30-year career.”
In a recent meeting, Harvard’s student government condemned Carvello’s actions, demanding that the HUPD drop the trespassing charges against the man in the February incident. They also demanded HUPD “release its code of ethics and budget, and that police issue an apology and discipline the officer involved.”