On Tuesday, Sept. 25, two high school students were ejected from Union Station’s Gate A men’s room by a pair of Amtrak cops. The students say the officers sicced a police dog on them in the bathroom.
The two teenagers say they were not given a reason for their rousting.
Marquise Williams, 16, a sophomore at Dunbar Senior High School, and Mikhal Crockett, 16, a sophomore at Calvin Coolidge Senior High School, had stopped at the restroom on their way to school from their Kingman Park neighborhood. Both say they had been doing nothing unusual in the bathroom to warrant police attention.
They had spent 20 minutes, maybe more, inside the men’s room. Williams says he occupied the last stall, the handicapped spot. Crockett had the next stall. They took their time, debating whose school had the better football team.
At some point, Crockett says, he could hear a dog outside the bathroom. And then, he says, he could hear the dog’s breathing right up close. Crockett could see an Amtrak cop eyeing him through the crack in his stall door.
“Get up! Get out!” Crockett recalls the cop shouting at him.
“We can’t use the bathroom?” Crockett asked.
The cop then loosened the leash on his dog. The dog bolted under Crockett’s stall door. “It was just his head,” Crockett says. The head barked. “When it first barked, a whole bunch of saliva [sprayed]…. The spit almost got on me. It looked like camel spit. It looked like it was starting to go crazy.”
Crockett jumped on top of the toilet seat. He says the dog moved farther inside his stall, causing the stall door to rattle. He thought the cop was losing control of the dog.
“Why you so scared?” Crockett says the cop asked.
The cops then set their dog on Williams. He, too, jumped on top of his seat. “I saw Animal Attacks,” Williams says.
Both teenagers left their stalls without incident.
“Why you shaking?” the cop asked him, Crockett says. “Hurry up and get out.”
Williams admits he hadn’t finished in the stall. He had pulled his pants up, but there was “still tissue in my butt.”
The boys say they had asked the Amtrak police the reason for the dog-assisted eviction. The cops refused to answer. One cop, Crockett says, just put his hand on his “gun or Taser.” Crockett was barred from taking the Metro to Coolidge. They were ordered to leave Union Station immediately.
Once outside, Crockett called his mother, Rylinda Rhodes.
Rhodes set about getting some answers. She found Crockett and Williams and took them to the Amtrak police desk, which is located among the station’s gates. There, she says, she spoke with Sgt. D. Franklin (Franklin refused to give her first name for this story). She asked Franklin why the police ejected both her son and godson. And then she hit record on her Motorola cell phone, which documented the following conversation:
“I received the complaint,” Franklin can be heard saying.
When asked the nature of the complaint, the sergeant told Rhodes: “I’m not going to tell you that.”
The next portion—when Rhodes says Franklin asked the boys “Weren’t you all up in the stall together?”—is inaudible.
“They look at her like she’s crazy,” Rhodes says. “That implication was ridiculous.”
Franklin can be heard ordering the teenagers to leave again. “They’re not leaving,” Rhodes told Franklin. “They’re with me.”
Rhodes then turned her attentions to Lt. Brenda Medina and made the same demands. Medina could offer only an incident number and a report request form. Rhodes also called the office of Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.
The Amtrak police had given Rhodes an 800 number to pursue her questions about the case. The number connected Rhodes to Amtrak’s police communications center in Philadelphia. She says the officer there—a Sgt. William Ludwig—hung up on her three times and threatened to have her arrested.
At that point, Franklin and another officer approached Rhodes. She says she could hear the sergeant giving an order on the radio: “If she calls again, I’m going to arrest her. Take care of that.”
“It’s just ridiculous,” Rhodes says. “They definitely shouldn’t put the dogs on them. They treated me as if I did something wrong.”
Franklin refused comment for this story. When asked about the incident, she evicted this reporter from Union Station. At one point, she screamed: “Who are you to interview me?”
In a written statement, Amtrak claims its police “responded to a report of two male adults” sharing a stall but that when they entered the men’s room, they found Williams and Crockett in separate stalls.
When asked about Amtrak’s policies on the use of dogs, spokesperson Karina Romero replies, “Their K9 units are primarily used for security, and they’re trained for explosive detection. But some are cross-trained for patrols so they’re used in security patrols around the station.”
The next morning, Crockett and Williams went to Union Station. Crockett braved the stalls. Williams says he did not. Instead, he waited for his friend at a table at Sbarro. “I just sat down where [Franklin] couldn’t see me,” he says. Rhodes herself has since banned the boys from Union Station; they now opt for the safer confines of Gallery Place.
Rhodes still has the filled-out request form for the incident report. The officers had refused to take it. She still doesn’t know why her son and godson were evicted from Union Station.
Amtrak police told Rhodes she would have to mail the request to their Philly office. At the top of the form, the heading carries the department’s motto: customer oriented policing.