Crime

What’s happening with the probe in the Hookah lounge melee involving Merced police?

Watch Merced police officer fire ‘sage weapon’ during club ‘melee’

WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS VIOLENCE & EXPLICIT LANGUAGE A Merced police officer was injured and multiple people were arrested early Sunday after “a large melee” at Chandelier’s Hookah Lounge & Smoke Shop on Main Street.
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WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS VIOLENCE & EXPLICIT LANGUAGE A Merced police officer was injured and multiple people were arrested early Sunday after “a large melee” at Chandelier’s Hookah Lounge & Smoke Shop on Main Street.

It's been more than six months since video from an altercation between Merced police and college students went viral, and investigators have not decided whether anyone will be charged with a crime.

Footage from the July 9 incident at Chandelier's Hookah Lounge on Main Street showed officers shouting at students, and Officer Joseph Opinski firing what police identified as a "sage" weapon, which struck at least one person.

Accounts have differed related to the lounge incident, with police saying they reacted with force after meeting an aggressive crowd and a police officer was assaulted. While several students have said they witnessed an officer throw the first punch, striking a student in the face.

On the night of the melee, Merced police arrested Isa Bey, 22, a UC Merced student from Oakland, and his brothers Nedir, 20; Yakub, 24; and Majied, 21. Officers also arrested Ciasonne Olajuwon Ratto-Foster, 20, a cousin of the Beys.

The Drop the Charges Campaign committee, which is made up mostly of students, has demanded that police apologize for their use of force and undergo new training to prevent future altercations.

None of the arrested college students have so far been charged with any crimes, according to the Rob Carroll, chief deputy district attorney for the Merced County District Attorney’s Office. The office has up to a year to file any potential misdemeanor charges, he said.

"We want to make sure we get this right," he said on Monday. "We want to get as much information as we can before we make a decision."

The office has "several hours" of video footage to review and has transcribed multiple interviews with the students, he said. The office had police body camera footage enhanced to try to get a better handle on what happened.

Carroll said the office has repeatedly asked for more video from the night of the incident, he said, noting the existing footage shows several others filming the scene with their phones. But, no new footage has been turned over to investigators, including the bodycam lost by one of the officers, he said.

"We're in the business of finding the truth and pursuing justice," he said. "We want to see all the angles. We want to see anything that's out there."

UC Merced students have previously said Majied Bey was the student struck by the sage weapon and said Ratto-Foster was hit by a Taser.

Police have said they were looking for 23-year-old Bryant Brown inside the lounge but said he was not found inside. Social media posts from Brown led police to think he was there, according to officers.

Days after the incident, UC Merced students took to the streets in protest, marching from campus, along G Street and to the Merced Police Department’s main office on West 22nd Street. Students and advocates of the have also spoken publicly and staged protests asking investigators to not file charges against any of the students.

Attempts to speak with advocates were unsuccessful.

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