Published May 21. 2014 4:00AM
I was given a disturbing video Monday of a homeless man being beaten up on Tilley Street, lying helplessly along the sidewalk, with the assailant swearing and threatening to kill the man while delivering his blows.
He finished up by kicking the victim hard in the head before walking away.
It's hard to watch.
When the attack is over, the victim, who is black, lifts himself up on his knees on the sidewalk and cries out for help, for someone to call the police, saying, "I've been beat up by a white guy."
The person who gave me the video was Anthony Little, the person in the video being beaten up.
Little told me he was assaulted again two days later downtown by someone else, and after that attack, for which he was treated again at the hospital, the police who responded initially did not get out of the cruiser to investigate, asking him, he says, where his witnesses were.
I recognize the enormous challenges New London police face every day, sorting out and sometimes refereeing the kinds of difficult incidents that are going to arise in a tight little city.
Still, Little's complaints seem to echo some of the thoughts in an op-ed piece in The Day this week by Cathy Zall, director of the Homeless Hospitality Center in New London and pastor of the city's First Congregational Church.
"We live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to poor people," Zall wrote. "At almost every turn I see evidence that, as a society, we are losing a sense of being responsible for each other."
In the case of the Tilley Street attack, which occurred last Thursday, Little has ample evidence of how he was treated. And it is hard not to believe some of that, as Zall might suggest, is related to the fact that he is poor and homeless.
In Little's version of the story, he was looking for some friends at a Tilley Street apartment building when he was told to move along by a custodian there. He was walking away, he says, when he was attacked, knocked over and punched. That's where the video, taken by someone he knows, from a nearby stoop, begins.
Little said the attack began after he took out his phone to call the police and the custodian knocked it out of his hand.
Little appears to offer little resistance in the video, as he is pummeled.
He was later taken by ambulance to the hospital and treated for injuries, including to his eye, which was still badly swollen, half shut, when I met him.
He was then taken to the police station, where he was charged with breach of peace and held overnight.
When I tracked down the custodian to ask his version of the events, he didn't deny the beating that is seen in the video. But he said Little punched him first, a blow he says he managed to mostly duck.
When he pointed his phone at Little to take a picture, Little slapped it out of his hand, and that's when he struck back, the custodian told me. He showed me a fuzzy picture on his phone of someone's arm, which he said was Little's, reaching for him.
The custodian told me Little was the second person to swing at him that day, and he was out of patience.
I found one resident of the building who saw what happened and who corroborated Little's version of the events.
Confrontations may not be new to Little, who has a fairly substantial criminal history, including two arrests for assault. The custodian is not listed in Connecticut judicial records as having a criminal history.
The custodian was also charged Thursday with breach of peace, although he signed a promise to appear in court at the scene and did not have to go to the police station.
Deputy Police Chief Peter Reichard told me the reason Little was taken back to the police station to spend the night is because he refused at the hospital to sign the promise to appear in court.
Reichard said investigating officers did see the video of Little being beaten, but were not able to retrieve it later because it was taken down from YouTube. He said if police could get a copy of the video, they could send it to prosecutors, and additional charges could be lodged.
As for the second assault Little described, Reichard said there is no record of him filing a complaint about the police response. Little didn't have a copy of the complaint, but he did show me a record from the hospital showing he was treated there again.
Surely a poor homeless person with all the attendant problems that signifies probably finds it hard in all kinds of circumstances to be taken seriously, especially when reporting a crime to police.
I judged what he told me to be credible, but I have no way to prove much of it when it conflicts with what others say.
But there is no disputing that he had to spend the night in jail after being badly beaten and kicked in the head on a city street, like an animal.
As Zall suggested, that's a problem for all of us to consider and worry about.
This is the opinion of David Collins.