Norwich police confront shop owner in video
I don't want to minimize the difficult job police face in investigating violent crimes, and certainly there must have been a lot of tension last Saturday night in Norwich as officers investigated a shooting that gravely wounded a young man.
Still, a new video posted on YouTube that shows police confronting a business owner near where the shooting occurred seems to raise some questions about how police went about their business that night.
In the video, a police officer is seen addressing Sean Youngs, the owner of the Who's Next Barber Shop, near the intersection of Seventh Street and Central Avenue.
The officer freely uses obscenities and threatens Youngs that if he doesn't cooperate "we'll get a search warrant . we'll go though this (expletive) place tooth and nail . you'll be out of business for a week or so."
Youngs doesn't say a lot in the video except to explain they were cutting hair when the shooting occurred outside - the incident happened shortly after 9 p.m. Youngs can also be heard to invite the police inside to conduct a search.
I called Youngs Friday after someone sent me a link to the video on YouTube. I also looked up his name on the state Judicial Department website and saw that there are a few criminal drug charges pending against him.
Youngs, who is still quite angry about what happened last week, told me the shooting occurred out on the street and he and others heard shots before people ran inside the barber shop to take cover.
He denies that the shooting followed any kind of argument in his shop, as police have suggested. Youngs also said that, although he knows the 19-year-old victim and has seen him around the neighborhood, the young man wasn't in the shop Saturday.
Youngs said police made him and a few other people wait inside the barber shop overnight as they investigated. They slept in chairs, he said.
Youngs told me he believes the way he was treated by police Saturday is the latest in a campaign of harassment that began last year when he complained that police denied him a vendor license for a hot dog cart.
The drug charges pending in Superior Court, he said, were the result of that same harassment, when police searched his shop, threatened him with guns and found a small amount of marijuana.
Youngs said he was also charged with some other drug deals across town that he had no part of.
Youngs said he believes Norwich Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro Sr. is behind the harassment against him, which he said began when he complained to city officials and a state senator about the denial of the vendor license.
Fusaro was out of town Thursday and I couldn't reach him.
I also tried Mayor Peter Nystrom, who watched the video after I sent him a link. Nystrom said he preferred not to comment until he could speak to police.
No one else from the police department responded to my message asking for comment Thursday, although Deputy Chief Warren Mocek called another reporter at The Day to say that witnesses said the shooting victim had been involved in an argument in the barber shop before being shot.
"The video is a brief snapshot in the middle of an intense investigation in a matter of grave violence," the deputy chief said. "One could say the language is coarse, but it is not uncommon in that locale based on previous police experience."
He said the focus of people's attention should not be on the video but on the condition of the teenager, who is paralyzed as a result of the shooting.
Time will reveal more details about police charges against Youngs, and that could eventually shed more light on the truth of his allegations that he has been harassed and the victim of bogus charges.
Meanwhile, I think the police and city officials need to take a close look at the video and ask themselves if that's how they want law enforcement to be represented in Norwich, no matter how tense the situation.
It seems to me a police officer shouldn't casually throw around obscenities or threaten to close someone's business down for a week, no matter how worried he may be about a victim's well-being.
This is the opinion of David Collins.