Timeline of violence at mall, NYPD involvement and need for mall lockdown on December 26th, and need for temporary change of mall security rules and police patrols at and around mall over days following December 26th — all remain unexplained after 63rd Precinct Council Meeting
63rd Pct. Commander ducks Community Meeting and avoids talking about December 26th incident at mall with old and new City Councilmen
On December 30th I made the following provocative query on this blog: “Has the News about the Flashmob Violence that Hit Brooklyn’s Kings Plaza Mall been suppressed ?” (See post of same title by Galewyn Massey, below on this blog at 12/30/13). Sad to say, there are no new details about the December 26th incedent(s) at Kings Plaza that are available at this time. However, in the nature of “BACKFILL” there is a rather long and detailed report of the event by Colin Mixson that appeared in the Courier Life’s Brooklyn Daily on the same day as my post about the events ( See “Brawl at the mall!” by Colin Mixson, 12/30/13, Courier Life/ Brooklyn Daily
The Colin Mixson coverage provides this approximate narrative timeline: “The first brawls began at around 1:30 pm, and the constant fighting prompted stores across the mall to close their doors and lower their gates, according to Schraier. *** The Best Buy where Schraier works closed once for ten minutes, and then again later in the day for half an hour, over fears that the fighting and hooliganism gripping the mall would spill into their aisles. *** The entire mall was closed to patrons for 20 minutes at around 7 pm, according to Schraier.”
On the other hand, Mixson also reports that police statements about the events contradicted that timeline to some extent. According to a police spokesman, the NYPD responded to the incident, but not until they had been asked for assistance by mall management, which happened around 9PM, when the mall typically closes for the day. That would have been more than seven hours after witnesses first observed mob trouble at the mall. Then a problematic message was sent to community leaders by the 63 Precinct on Friday morning that claimed. “We had a group of rambunctious teens acting like children in the mall last night. We already had officers in the mall,” the message read. According to the police, the responding officers were able to disperse the rowdy crowd, and no arrests were made. Finally the police said that no complaints have been filed with NYPD and, until a report is made by a victim, police cannot say whether any property was stolen or destroyed, or whether any bystanders were the victims of violence, according to police.
Mixson also reported that messages left for Steve DeClara, Kings Plaza’s property manager, were not returned, but a statement from by Kings Plaza management had acknowledged that an “incident” did occur — “There was an incident last evening involving a large group of teens, but thanks to the support of the New York Police Department and mall security, the center is business as usual,” the statement read. In response to the chaos that overwhelmed the mall Thursday, the Kings Plaza Shopping Center enacted a temporary policy forbidding “teenagers” from entering the mall without an adult chaperon over the weekend, according to Kings Plaza marketing manager Dawn Simon. “For a short time we asked that teens only visit the center when accompanied by an adult,” Simon wrote in an e-mail.
As of the Monday following the Thursday incident, teenagers were again allowed in the mall without adult supervision, albeit with the warning that “disturbing behavior” will not be tolerated, according to Simon. “Teens are now welcome without escort. However, we ask that they respect the center’s code of conduct while visiting the center.... Fighting and other disturbing behavior will not be tolerated and we will continue to work with the NYPD to ensure our code of conduct is being enforced.”
THE PLOT THICKENS ! POLITICOS CHARGE “COVER-UP”
Much more interesting than his report of the original event at Kings Plaza is Colin Mixson’s follow-up piece about the 63rd Precinct Council meeting that occurred a few nights later. “Locals with questions for the police about the post-Christmas chaos at Kings Plaza Shopping Center got mozzarella sticks instead of answers at the Dec. 30 meeting of the 63rd Precinct Community Council, and local leaders are complaining of a cover-up.” (See “Locals cry cover-up over mall brawl” by Colin Mixson, 1/8/14, Courier-Life/ Brooklyn Daily [http://www.brooklyndaily.com/stories/2014/2/mm-mall-brawl-followup-2014-01-10-bk_2014_2.html]).
According to Mixson’s folllow-up, “The NYPD’s official stance is that no arrests were made, because no complaints were filed regarding any theft and violence that occurred at the mall, according to statements from both the department’s Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information and the 63rd Precinct. *** Police headquarters initially claimed that no NYPD personnel were involved until Kings Plaza management called for help at 9 pm — when the mall was scheduled to close, and hours after the violence began — but the 63rd Precinct later said that it already had officers on the scene at the time. *** A letter to community leaders from Office Thomas Podd of the 63rd Precinct’s community affairs office dismissed the incident as “a group of rambunctious teens acting like children.”
Several “community leaders” attended the subsequent community council meeting hoping to ask the 63rd Precint Commanding Officer, Deputy Inspector John Rowell, how the situation was allowed to escalate to the point where many businesses inside the mall were forced to close their roll-down gates, holding customers inside for their safety. But D.I. Rowell skipped the meeting claiming a “prior engagement.” That excuse outraged outgoing Councilman Lou Fidler; “I don’t know what business the inspector had, but he should be here to communicate what’s happened at Kings Plaza,” Fidler said. The NYPD did send a representative, but the report that officer provided did not supply any new information regarding the December 26th incident at Kings Plaza. Instead, the substitute officer was only prepared to report on an overall reduction of the 63rd Precinct’s crime rate. The outgoing councilman and some of the attendees believed the subject of the briefing might have been selected to divert attention from recent events indicating the contrary. The police spokesman at the precinct meeting declined to comment on the Kings Plaza incident after making his report about the improving crime stats.
Michael Benjamin, the President of the Bergen Beach Civic Association, later posted his agreement with Councilmember Fidler on his group’s Facebook page — According to Assn. Pres. Benjamin, “Councilman Lew Fidler was exactly right in his comments about police not wanting to increase their crime stats via arrests.... So, a near-riot is ‘off the books’ in the 63.”
Incoming Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Canarsie) was also at the precinct council meeting. He said later that as the neighborhood's new representative on the City Council, he would push to meet with both Deputy Inspector Rowell and the Kings Plaza management in an effort to get to the bottom of the incident; Maisel said, “Now that we’re back to business, I’m going to reach out to Inspector Rowell and see what his take is, and I’m going to sit down with Kings Plaza and see what their security plan is.”
This all does have the look of a cover-up. The immediate question is what really happened that it needs to be covered-up like this.