Real Life Somerville Police Stories: Richard ABERNATHY (Disturbing the Peace, Threat to Commit Crime, Misc Common Law Violation)

On August 4, 2018 at about 11:45 AM, I (Officer Mark Nevin / West 5) was dispatched to the MBTA station on College Avenue in response to a report of a woman removing her clothes. The woman was reported to be wearing only two items at the moment. Officer Paul Anderson (West 5) and EMS were also dispatched. The following is a summary of the incident.

Officer Anderson was already on-scene upon my arrival and the Somerville Fire Department (SFD) arrived moments later. I observed Officer Anderson assessing a woman who matched the description provided by Somerville Dispatch, although she now had on an outer garment covering her waist and pelvis area. She was sitting on the ground, whining unintelligibly, swinging her arms for no apparent reason, and was wriggling and contorting her body almost nonstop into unnatural positions. The SFD took over assessing the patient when they arrived, and they were subsequently relieved by Cataldo Ambulance personnel. The woman had no identification, but stated her name is XXXX and her date of birth is xxxxxx. Ms. XXXX appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance that was negatively affecting her ability to care for herself, interact with the world around her, and keep herself safe. She was voluntarily transported by Cataldo Ambulance to the Cambridge Hospital.

While EMS was assessing Ms. XXXX, an anonymous bystander told me that she was with a man (later identified as Richard Abernathy) who went into the 7/11 store across the street. As she was describing the man to me, she observed him come out of the store and pointed him out. He walked across the street to our location, then attempted to in the middle of Ms. XXXX, EMS, and Officer Anderson. Officer Anderson guided him out of the way, but he ended up sitting on the ground near Ms. XXXX. He refused to say what drugs she had taken and insisted that she was okay and does not need help.

As Ms. XXXX was moved on the gurney to the ambulance, Mr. Abernathy began to follow and said that he was going to go with Ms. XXXX. I put up my hands to stop him and explained to him that it was not his choice whether he could go and that Ms. XXXX has the right to privacy. He backed off a little bit, but then attempted to push past both Officer Anderson and me. We physically stopped him. I continued to push him back and out of the way. Mr. Abernathy became very angry and insisted that he was going to go with her and attempted to get past us again. He began to yell loudly something like, “Don’t touch me! You can’t touch me!” I warned him that he needs to calm down, he doesn’t want to go down this road, and he doesn’t want to spend the weekend in jail. He said, “Fuck Jail!” and continued his loud and tumultuous behavior. We handcuffed Mr. Abernathy, and moved him to an area where he would be less of a hazard and imposition to the public. I told him he was under arrest and began to search him for inventory purposes. He stated that he had an AIDS infected and was going to stab us with it. He repeated this threat when he was placed into the prisoner transport wagon. We took his threat very seriously and took extra precautions when searching him. If he had an uncapped needle, he could have jerked his body in a way that would cause the needle to prick one of us. Despite the rain, the MBTA area was busy with pedestrian traffic and several people that stopped to observe the scene.

During the course of events, I noticed that a woman was using her cell phone to record the ongoing activities. After Ms. XXXX had been transported and Mr. Abernathy had been secured, I approached the woman and asked for her identifying information for my report and explained that we would need the video she took for evidence. She was very resistant to both. She provided her name and phone number, but refused to provide any additional identifying information. She ultimately offered her driver’s license and was identified as YYYY. Ms. YYYY insisted that she wanted to call her lawyer and attempted to walk away from me several times. I physically stopped her from leaving the area with the evidence by grabbing ahold of her backpack. I explained to her that she did not have a right to call her attorney because she was not under arrest. After obtaining her identification, I told Ms. YYYY that she was free to leave but to move at least ten feet away. At first she seemed to ignore my admonition. I had to tell her two more times to back off before she did. I needed to turn my attention back to our prisoner.

Meanwhile, Ms. YYYY circled around and continued to record video from a respectful distance. The street supervisor (Sgt. McCarey) also responded and he spoke to Ms. YYYY. He explained to her that she was more than welcome to videotape the incident but the video she took would need to be collected as evidence. Upon hearing this, she said, “No” and she attempted to protect her phone by tucking it out of view. Her phone was forcefully removed from her. After giving her a moment to calm down, Sgt. McCarey was able to obtain her authorization to download the video files off her phone. I connected her phone to my cruiser’s laptop and copied 3 video files and two photographs from her phone onto my cruiser’s laptop. The two photos do not appear to contain anything of interest; however, the videos document Ms. XXXX’s condition and Mr. Abernathy’s abhorrent behavior. These will be made available.

Mr. Abernathy was transported to the station in the prisoner transport wagon by Officer J. Buswell and booked by Lt. W. Rymill.

Mr. Abernathy was charged with the following:

272/534/G Disturbing the Peace

275/2 Threat to Commit a Crime

888888 Miscellaneous Common Law Violation (Interfering with a Police Officer)

Respectfully submitted by,

Officer Mark Nevin #300

Somerville Police Department

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