A sergeant investigating a reported arson, shown above, pulled his weapon on 4 teenagers Saturday night. The police timeline and records give different accounts of the incident. (Reader photo)

UPDATE —

Police have released a statement of “clarification regarding the timeline of events” during the incident.

Officer Jamie Williamson has now confirmed that the teens were detained more than 20 minutes past midnight. Before The Ithaca Voice raised contradictory evidence, police had initially said that the boys were chased during a 40 minute crime spree, from 10:15 p.m. to 10:55 p.m., that included two arsons and a violent burglary.

When asked in an interview what had happened, Williamson implied the incorrect information came from 911 dispatch tapes. He backtracked after The Voice pointed out that the tapes appear to be correct.

“If I indicated otherwise it was certainly a mistake,” said Williamson, the police department’s spokesperson. “The timeline was obtained from the 911 center; if I indicated otherwise certainly that was a mistake on my part.”

EARLIER —

Ithaca, N.Y. — Ithaca police have said that the chase that led a sergeant to pull his gun on unarmed teenagers began during “an unusual wave of serious criminal activity” on an August night involving three crimes.

But emergency radio reports show that the detention of the 15-year-olds actually occurred more than an hour after this period, according to records obtained by The Ithaca Voice.

The revelation comes as the police account of the highly-charged incident has drawn condemnation from community groups and fierce criticism from the mothers of the boys.

A police press release sent Friday says that officers were searching for people in connection with two vehicle fires/arsons and a home burglary in Ithaca on Aug. 9.

One vehicle fire occurred at 10:15 p.m. that night. The second occurred at 10:45 p.m. The burglary was at 10:55 p.m.

A sergeant investigating a reported arson, shown above, pulled his weapon on 4 teenagers Saturday night. The police timeline and records give different accounts of the incident. (Reader photo)

“During this unusual wave of serious criminal activity which took place during a 40 minute timespan, patrol officers observed a group of people riding bicycles in the area where the arson incidents had taken place,” states the police press release, which goes on to say that this observation led to the teens’ detention.

The police press release was understood by both The Voice and other media outlets to mean that the boys were chased during the period with multiple serious reports of crime.

Here’s The Cornell Daily Sun: “The sergeant’s decision to pull a gun on four 15-year-old teenagers came during what Ithaca police described as an ‘unusual wave of serious criminal activity’ that took place Saturday evening.”

And The Ithaca Journal again: “During this 40-minute spree, officers saw a group of people on bicycles in the vicinity, and the shift commander directed officers to stop them to see if they had information about the arsons and burglary.”

But dispatch calls obtained by The Voice provide directly contradictory evidence to this narrative.

In fact, the teens are not mentioned until the 12:16 a.m. mark on the tapes. That’s 81 minutes after police were called for the burglary, the last incident in the crime spree.

“I have a group of three on bicycles with no lights, backpacks, headed southbound on Plain Street,” a law enforcement official says on the tapes at 12:16 a.m., “are you able to see if you can intercept them and identify?”

Police have said that the sergeant who pulled his weapon was the one who first began following the teens. He was in an unmarked car because he had been called from his home to help during the reported high incidence of crime, according to police.

About a minute after an officer first spots the boys, someone on the tapes say that they are “currently headed eastbound on Buffalo.”

“And you want them detained, you said?” comes the response.

Two minutes later the boys are reported on Seneca Street.

“I think they came westbound on the hill … and then I saw them in the Fall Creek area,” one official says. (Correction: A previous article published a quote from this official calling the boys “mooks.” Several readers have questioned if this is what was really said on the tape, prompting The Voice to remove the quote.)

The boys head west. At around 12:20 a.m. they start running. (Their parents — who have not provided the boys’ account of the incident — have noted that they were being pursued by a person not identified as law enforcement.)

“They’re running on us,” someone says. And then, a little later: “(inaudible) …we have enough to pursue them.”

Officers begin to close in.

“You can forget the bikes let’s head over here,” someone says. Then: “They’re running west on Cleveland toward Corn. West on Cleveland toward Corn.”

An officer then says: “(redacted) has got em down. It’s going to be before Taste of Thai.”

There’s radio silence for a few minutes. Then the dispatcher speaks again, around 12:30 a.m.

“I’m not sure how you guys ended …” he says.

The officer responds a little later.

“We have two down here,” the officer says, “and the family members are causing a ruckus.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.