Apr 25, 2014 12:50 PM by Matthew Schwartz
TUCSON - There has been a major development in the case involving the Tucson Police Department's actions during the post-game riot on March 29. The News 4 Tucson Investigators have learned the FBI is involved in the case.
After UA's men's basketball team was bounced from the NCAA Tournament, Christina Gardilcic was bounced off a metal bench. By a Tucson Police Officer.
Gardilcic is the alleged victim of the shove seen 'round the World Wide Web. The News 4 Tucson Investigators recently presented an interview with the police officer's attorney. Now, for the first time, the alleged victim has talked to a Tucson reporter. The 21-year-old UA senior returned to the scene with us.
At the corner of University Boulevard and Tyndall Avenue, Gardilcic said, "I was coming right here, my head was down, I wasn't paying attention, and the next thing I know I landed... with my back on this bench face up with my feet up."
We asked Gardilcic, "What was your reaction, your first thought when this happened?" "I was very shocked," she said. "I really didn't know what happened."
The incident, which quickly went viral, occurred during the postgame riot in Main Gate Square on March 29th. Some in the crowd were seen clearly taunting police; TPD says 15 rioters were arrested, nine of them UA students. Gardilcic landed on a metal bench after being hit by TPD Sgt. Joel Mann, and his nightstick.
We asked Gardilcic, "Did it hurt?" She said, "Not at first 'cause I was in such shock. It hurt afterwards."
Gardilcic had a large black and blue mark and general soreness. She said she was starting to send a text when she was hit. She had watched the game at a restaurant and was walking to the nearby Tyndall Avenue Parking Garage, holding her phone and a cup that she says contained water.
Gardilcic and the News 4 Tucson Investigators had this exchange:
N4T Investigators: "Did the police officer give you any directive?"
N4T Investigators: "Did they ever tell you 'get back, don't get any farther, don't cross any line?"
Gardilcic: "No. And there were people all around, even; I mean it was caught on video, so obviously someone was standing right there, there were people around."
Her attorney is Stephen Weeks.
We asked Weeks, "What do you think would have happened here if there were no video?" Weeks said, "Her word against the police. The police would be believed."
Weeks isn't saying that he's going to sue TPD, but did say, "Somebody needs to accept full responsibility for what happened. And sometimes examples need to be made. That can be done through appropriate procedures through the police department. It can also be done through the civil justice system."
The News 4 Tucson Investigators have learned that the FBI is investigating Sgt. Mann's actions. Federal agents interviewed Gardilcic in the Bureau's Tucson office on April 14, and are looking into whether Mann violated her civil rights.
Attorney Weeks said, "The police department needs to properly train its folks to make sure this never happens again."
Gardilcic added, "I'm angry with the police department, just for not accepting responsibility, and apologizing. It's just frustrating.
We asked Gardilcic, "Do you think Sgt. Mann should be fired?" She said, "I feel bad, I don't want him to lose his job, but I do think action should be taken and something should come about it, whether it be policy change in the police force, or something like more training and riot control or crowd control. Something like that."
When we asked Gardilcic, "If you could talk to Sgt. Mann, what would you say?" She replied, "I guess I would just ask him, 'why?' or what I was doing wrong to make him think that it was ok to hit me."
We wanted to interview Sgt. Mann so he could have an opportunity to respond and fully explain his actions of March 29, but he declined our request through his attorney. TPD officials also declined an interview request, citing the pending investigation.
TPD says Sgt. Mann has received threats of physical violence. Gardilcic's attorney says Mann's conduct should be addressed through the system, not through vigilante justice.
No word on when the investigations are expected to be completed.
As for Christina Gardilcic, she's graduating on time next month with a degree in psychology, and plans to attend graduate school in her native California.
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