The misdemeanor trial of two UCSB alumni arrested for obstruction of a police officer during a downtown fight in 2006 continued on Friday with the testimony of two eyewitnesses.
Deputy District Attorney Paula Waldman subpoenaed the two witnesses who recapped the events, which took place in front of the now defunct Cooney’s Nightclub on June 15, 2006. The testimony centered on defendants Aseye Allah and Meron Meshesha’s behavior as well as the allegedly violent nature of the surrounding crowd that evening.
At the time, both women were arrested for allegedly interfering with the police as they attempted to assist a man who was knocked unconscious during the fight outside the nightclub.
However, in a separate civil case set for June, both women accuse Santa Barbara police of violating their fourth amendment right – which protects individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures – and using unnecessary force.
On Friday, Waldman called 25-year-old Greg Takayama, a witness to the events outside the bar, to describe the scene. Takayama said the club “was a lot more crowded because of graduation week,” and went on to describe the fight between visiting Marine Donald Bivens and the two defendants’ friend, Reggie Smith.
“Initially the sound of – like taking a hand and slapping concrete – [caught my attention], and when I turned, it was someone on the ground, either passed out or knocked out … in front of the club,” Takayama said. “He was not conscious or moving. He had fallen in a contorted position. At the time I looked over, there were several girls – probably his friends … who tried to help him.”
Takayama testified that in the midst of the fight, police officers were trying to control the crowd as well as prevent the women from reaching their friend.
“[The officers] were saying the usual things, ‘Go home’, ‘Sidewalk closed’, ‘Get out of here,’ [but] the crowd was staying where they were,” Takayama said. “The police were between the girls and the person on the ground because they were trying to stop anyone from coming near him.”
The defendants repeatedly tried to reach their friend until officers arrested them. Although Takayama’s memory had gaps, he testified to seeing one of the girls “on the ground” with her clothing “ruffled,” complaining verbally, but not in any immediate danger. He said he believed the officer was simply trying to restrain the woman, not inflict any pain.
According to Takayama, the crowd allegedly grew more aggressive, shouting curses like “Fuck the pigs” and “Fuck you.”
“Based on what I observed, it was dangerous for the officers,” he said. “It seemed there was a large crowd that outnumbered the officers who were attempting to control the situation. That’s not something you walk in to. That’s something you walk away from.”
After a short recess, Reshawn Randall – a 31-year-old former bartender, sweeper and bouncer for Cooney’s – took the stand and corroborated Takayama’s testimony. He also said that police held batons that night but never used them.
Allah declined to comment on the trial, while Meshesha was unavailable for comment.