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January 10, 1986
Cops Bust 'Mama's' Samaritan

by Saul Friedman
Manuel Rosario, 33, a homeless man who had complained last month that Metro-North police failed to help a dying woman at Grand Central Terminal, was arrested twice by Metro-North officers yesterday and jailed on charges of loitering and trespassing there.

Rosario, who was the only person arrested among dozens of homeless sitting in the terminal, is said by companions to have told them he was beaten by one arresting officer and told, "You have a big mouth."

Chiara Coletti, a spokeswoman for Metro-North, said that while many of the homeless loiter throughout the day at the terminal, Rosario was arrested because he "was abusive to the officer" and disorderly. Coletti said that Rosario's charge that he had been singled out for harassment and a beating is being investigated.

Several of Rosario's homeless companions interviewed at Grand Central after the incidents said that he had done nothing to provoke his arrest.

George McDonald, an advocate for the homeless who has befriended the people who spend their days in the terminal, said he believed that Rosario was the victim of "selective prosecution" because he had complained to the press about the conduct of Metro-North officers in the death on Christmas Day of a woman known only as "Mama."

The elderly woman was found dead on the bench of the terminal waiting room by a police officer who sought to waken her by pounding the bench with a night stick.

Later, Rosario and another homeless man, Forrest Sheridan, 47, told reporters that two Metro-North officers had ignored their Christmas Eve pleas to call an ambulance for the woman, who they said was ill. Rosario also was prominent on television news accounts of Mama's death.

At about 5:20 a.m. yesterday, shortly after the terminal was opened for the day, Rosario was sitting on a waiting room bench when he was approached by Metro-North officer Santiago Jusino. According to the Metro-North spokeswoman, Rosario became abusive to the officer and was taken into custody, issued summonses for disorderly conduct and loitering, and released.

However, Juan Huertas, 34, told Newsday that the officer approached Rosario and told him to get out. Rosario told the officer to stop bothering him, but was not abusive, Huertas said.

Benito Saldivar, 29, said Rosario tried to enter the nearby men's room but the officer blocked his path, grabbed him and forced him to the ground while putting handcuffs on him.

"He [Rosario] did not say anything" to the police, Saldivar said.

When he was released from the Metro-North police office at the terminal, Rosario told his companions that officers told him in Spanish that "you talk too much" and that "you have a big mouth."

Rosario called 911 for help from city police, he later told McDonald, but was told they would not come unless someone was being hurt. Then, the railroad spokeswoman confirmed, he made a complaint about his arrest and his treatment to Metro-North Capt. Pete Niland.

At about 1:20 p.m. Rosario was again sitting in the waiting room with other homeless men when Jusino, in the company of other officers, arrested and handcuffed him. This time he was charged with loitering and criminal trespass, according to Metro-North.

Hector Santiago, 27, who was sitting nearby, said Rosario "was doing nothing" when he was arrested. And Forrest Sheridan added: "Rosario was just sitting on the bench when they pushed him and handcuffed him." Coletti, the Metro-North spokeswoman, conceded that Rosario had done nothing to provoke his second arrest, but she explained, "If a person has been given a summons for loitering and then appears again, they will be booked. The summons serves as a warning."

Asked why Rosario was charged in the first place, Coletti replied: "All I am told is that he was abusive to the officer." Her information, she said, was supplied by Niland, who is investigating the conduct of Metro-North officers in Mama's death as well as Rosario's complaint of harassment.

After his second arrest, Rosario was taken to the central booking office. McDonald said he had arranged for an attorney, Jerry Goldfeder, to represent him on the charges.

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