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Cops told an elderly woman to jump over a chest-high fence lining Manhattan Beach on a recent Sunday after she and her family were locked inside following a seaside birthday party for the 81-year-old, critics charged.
Surprised witnesses said that during the usually frenzied scramble to close the beach at 9 p.m. the senior, her family and a group of other beach-goers were approaching the main entrance off of Oriental Boulevard when cops from the 61st Precinct reportedly locked the gate on them.
“They [the family] was shouting ‘We’re still in the park, don’t close up the gate! We have an elderly woman here!’” recalled one beach-goer who witnessed the exchange. “But the cops said ‘She’s going to have to jump over,’ then got into a van and took off.”
The Manhattan Beach beach-goer, who asked to only be identified as Robert, said he was also locked in and sat with the family as they called 911. EMS came by and were about to chair-lift the woman over the fence, but they were told that the woman had just underwent hip surgery.
Instead, paramedics hunted down a security guard at Kingsborough Community College who had a key to the sprawling park and asked him to let them onto the beach.
The EMS crew drove over to the family, put the senior on a stretcher and transported her to freedom, Robert explained, adding that he and the family didn’t get out of Manhattan Beach until 9:45 p.m.
“In the end, their day was ruined,” he remembered. “This was a huge family gathering to celebrate this woman’s 81st birthday, but when the cops came half of the family was forced to get into their cars or they would have been locked in too. Then the rest of them were locked in.”
But even though the group was split, the family “waited it out together,” Robert recalled, adding that the police constantly harass sun worshippers at the beach as they prepare to close the park for the evening.
“They drive by and harass everybody in the park with their loudspeaker and siren,” he said. “I came to Manhattan Beach 20 years ago so I didn’t have to listen to police sirens and now that’s all you hear on the weekends.”
When contacted, Captain George Mastrokostas, the commanding officer of the 61st Precinct, said that he and his officers were actively investigating the incident, which this paper brought to his attention.
He said that since the park is supposed to be closed by 9 p.m. each night, his officers have established a protocol that they arrive at 8 p.m., make announcements, and then begin securing the seven gates that lead out to the beach.
They then tour the area making sure that everyone is leaving the beach, he said.
Mastrokostas could not comment on the incident, since it was still under investigation.
Yet other high ranking members of the 61st Precinct voiced surprise over the incident.
“If someone was mistakenly locked in, no matter how old the person was, the cops should have let them out,” said one supervisor. “I would be extremely disappointed if that wasn’t the case.”
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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