Officer who cuffed Tufts professor for jaywalking defends his actions


ATLANTA (AP) – The Atlanta police officer who charged a Tufts University professor with jaywalking has contradicted the man’s account, insisting he was in uniform at the time and saying the professor has no one to blame but himself.

Officer Kevin Leonpacher said if anything, “I used an excessive amount of discretion,” in the encounter that landed Felipe Fernandez-Armesto in jail.

Fernandez-Armesto, 56, who was arrested Jan. 4, said earlier in an interview that he was assaulted while crossing the street by a man he did not realize was a police officer.

“Where I’m from, you don’t associate young gentlemen in bomber jackets with the police. But he was extremely upset I had questioned his bona fides,” recalled Fernandez-Armesto, a prominent British historian and former professor at Oxford. He was visiting Atlanta for a history convention.

But Leonpacher said he asked Fernandez-Armesto why he didn’t follow the instructions of a uniformed officer, and the author shrugged him off and walked away.

“I told him, it’s gonna be awful silly if I have to take you to jail for jaywalking,” said Leonpacher, 28. He said he could not handcuff the professor by himself.

“He was swinging, kicking wildly,” Leonpacher said, adding that backup officers arrived almost immediately. In the incident report, he quoted the professor as saying, “Well now I believe that you are the police.”

Atlanta police had said that the disorderly conduct charge against Fernandez-Armesto was subsequently dropped. Later they said the charge wasn’t officially dropped, and could be brought again, but that would be unlikely.

For now, his record will show only an arrest.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said she has asked police chief Richard Pennington to look into the incident.

Leonpacher says he was a good representative for the city. He was working a part-time job that day – with police consent, his superiors confirmed – for the Hilton Hotel, trying to direct pedestrians to use crosswalks.

Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,

AP-ES-01-10-07 1100EST