There was anger, shock and surprise in Freeport on Thursday as the community buzzed with the news of a controversial police arrest of a former high school basketball star there.
Many residents criticized what they viewed as violent tactics used by Freeport police in subduing Akbar Rogers, 44. The arrest was captured by a neighbor on video and posted to Instagram. They said they planned to attend a protest march Friday at Freeport's Refuge Apostolic Church.
But they also said relations with many local police officers have been positive.
“It’s heartbreaking to see that. He got beat up pretty bad,” said Leon Broughton, 42, who runs a local barbershop called Trimz and grew up with Rogers, 44, who's widely known as “Ace.”
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He said that while there are always two sides to a story and he personally has good relations with many Freeport police officers, “The brutality is not something we should stand for.”
Broughton said his business was buzzing with customers Thursday angry over the incident. “It’s been the topic all day,” he said.
Freeport police said Rogers was resisting arrest during the incident Tuesday and that they had to subdue him.
One of Trimz’s employees, Lindsey Johnson, 26, said: “No matter what happened, it was excessive force. It’s sad to see it happen.”
But, she added, “I know their job is tough. … For the most part, they give a lot back to the community.”
She said a number of her friends’ fathers are Freeport cops and that when she attended local schools, the police organized an “adopt-a-cop” program in which each class was visited often by an officer.
“You can’t let them [the cops who arrested Rogers] speak for the whole force,” Johnson said.
Richard Jackson, 43, a diesel technician, said: “I’m pretty surprised that Freeport police conducted themselves that way. I know a lot of cops. Everybody I know are pretty decent guys.”
Rogers, he said, was a “popular dude” back in high school. “He was a cool cat.”
Another lifelong Freeport resident, Cherokee Love, 48, said: “It’s still mind-boggling. It’s a shock. Everyone is like in disbelief.”
“It’s so humiliating to see that happen in this day and age,” said Love, who works with disabled people.
Rogers played basketball at Freeport High School before transferring to Sewanhaka High. A point guard, Rogers attended Nassau Community College, and had the talent to play Division I basketball, childhood friend Kwame Mason said.
Mason, of Baldwin, said he saw the video and called it an "extremely unforgivable incident. It certainly was excessive."
Mason said he sees Rogers regularly with friends who normally get together on Sunday mornings to play basketball.
“It appeared to me the police had an issue because they didn’t apprehend him a previous time and that whenever they did catch him, they were going to be excessive — to prove a point," said Mason, a permanent substitute teacher in the Hempstead School District.
"One of the officers came out swinging. Where is it a guy comes out of the car and just starts swinging, just starts kicking? What police protocol is that? Their job is to apprehend. It’s not to prove a point."
“To be a Freeporter, it’s embarrassing," he added. "And not just Freeport, it’s embarrassing for Long Island.”
Rogers was at the center of a controversial school transfer issue in the early 1990s when he went from Freeport to Sewanhaka High School, with his family renting an apartment from the father of Sewanhaka All-America basketball player Zendon Hamilton, who went on to play in the NBA.