Three suburban Maryland youths arrested in two incidents Saturday night at Landover Mall said yesterday that they were handcuffed and beaten by private security guards there. But a mall spokesman denied the three were beaten, saying any injuries the youths received were a result of resisting arrest.
There were no witnesses to the alleged beatings, but two persons, one a minister, said they saw one of the youths arrested and choked as he tried to leave the mall. The witnesses said they saw no provocation for the incident.
The security guards involved in the incidents are employed privately by the shopping facility, at Landover Road and the Capital Beltway in Prince George's County, and have arrest powers on the mall grounds, which are private property.
Prince George's County police said their officers were not involved in the incidents.
Darnell Thompson, 18, of Clinton said he and his 16-year-old nephew, John Thompson Jr., were ordered to leave the mall about 7:30 p.m. Saturday by two security guards who then followed them into the parking lot, provoked a fight, and beat and handcuffed him.
He said the two guards then took him, still handcuffed, to an elevator inside the mall, told him to face the wall, beat and choked him, and hit him in the face and groin.
John Thompson Jr., who also was arrested, said he was beaten by two security guards inside a room in the mall, was knocked down, was kicked while on the ground and later was punched in the face while he sat handcuffed in a chair.
In a separate incident about a half-hour after the Thompsons were arrested, Mark Gibrau, 20, of Landover said he was grabbed and choked inside the shopping mall by two security guards when he tried to intervene in an altercation they were having with a woman shopper.
Gibrau said the guards ordered him out of the mall, grabbed him as he was leaving, threw him against a store window and then put him in a choke hold.
He said the officers then took him to a private room and beat him on the face and body with a leather-covered metal "billyjack" while he was handcuffed.
Gibrau and the Thompsons said they were held in the mall's offices about five hours before they were taken to Prince George's County police headquarters at Seat Pleasant about 12:40 a.m. yesterday. They were charged with disorderly conduct, trespassing, loitering, assault and battery and resisting arrest, according to police records.
The Thompsons and Gibrau were treated at Prince George's General Hospital early yesterday for cuts and bruises and released.
Yesterday afternoon their faces were bruised and puffy, and John Thompson had a budding black eye.
Both the of Thompsons and Gibrau identified the two security guards involved in the alleged beatings as Gary Byrd and David McCloud. Security officers at the shopping mall would not comment yesterday, and Byrd and McCloud could not be reached.
Inquiries were referred to Henry Weisenberg, a spokesman for the shopping mall, who said no one was beaten while handcuffed. "We deny that," he said. "I asked Byrd and he denies it."
The Rev. William Hart, pastor of Christian Tabernacle Church in the District, said yesterday that he saw two officers applying so severe a choke hold to Gibrau, who is 5-foot-10 and weighs 145 pounds, "that I told them, 'Don't you kill that boy.' "
Hart said, "One of them the guards told me he was going to hit me in the head with his stick."
Hart said that later a third officer asked him to go upstairs to an office to try to calm Gibrau, but when he got there, two officers blocked the door, waved their nightsticks and told him, " 'You ain't going nowhere.' "
Leona Fauntroy, who said she also saw the incident, said Gibrau was walking toward an exit when the two officers called to him. "He started to come to them and they grabbed him and choked him. They didn't have to do what they done."
John Thompson's father, John Sr., a car salesman, said he and his wife went to the mall about 8 p.m. Saturday when they heard of the trouble but that mall officers barred their way.
The elder Thompson said he phoned the security office for information but was cursed and hung up on.
Gibrau's mother, Joyce Gibrau, a teacher for 15 years at Hart Junior High in the District, said that when she tried to see her son, a mall officer told her she was trespassing and ordered her off the property. She said she was so angry when she heard about the incident that she took along a golf club to defend herself.
Weisenberg, the shopping mall's spokesman, said Mark Gibrau had been charged with trespassing at the mall a year earlier. "This appears to be a repeat of his past performance. He appears to be a problem."
But Gibrau said the year-old trespass case was dismissed and stemmed from an incident in which he claims he was "roughed up" by security guards in the parking lot.
Weisenberg said the Thompsons were arrested after they were told to leave and Darnell Thompson "took a swing" at one of the officers. But Thompson, who is small and thin, said he had been in the mall 10 minutes when he and his nephew were picked out of the crowd by two officers, for reasons he did not know, and told to get out. He said the officers followed them to the parking lot and picked a fight.
Hart, the minister, said two security guards were "going through the halls instigating problems. Then, when the problem came, they called for help."
Leona Fauntroy concurred. "I saw them throw a 12-year-old boy out the door for no reason," she said. "I think they have to do something about those guards."