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Teen arrested at movies denies she did wrong

A 15-year-old girl who was arrested Christmas night at the Walden Galleria says she wasn't among the 40 to 50 youths whose behavior brought the Cheektowaga Police Department to the mall's movie theaters.

Yet she was the only one charged.

Daja Oates was removed from the Regal Cinema because she ignored repeated requests by police officers to leave the theater and she pushed an officer, according to Capt. John Glascott.

But Daja, who lives on Bedford Court, off William Street, said there is a reason she wouldn't leave the theater. She says she was in charge of two younger cousins who were dropped off with her shortly before 7 p.m. to see "Cheaper by the Dozen II."

"They were only at the movies for 20 minutes," said her mother, Nicole Oates. "We have to appear in court for really bogus charges."

Glascott said the theater managers called police to remove marauding teens who purchased PG movie tickets but were "going from show to show to get into R-rated movies."

Daja said a female employee, who had warned one of her cousins about opening her cell phone, came back with police officers and told them all to leave.

"We asked her, 'What do we do?' And the police officer said, 'Don't worry about it, you all just have to get out,' " Daja said.

As she gathered the children's coats, Daja said, a security guard became impatient with her.

"I was walking out," she said, "and my cousin was still out there, getting candy, and I walked over to hand her coat to her. The guy said, 'Who is that?' I said, 'That's my cousin.' And he said, real nasty, 'I don't know that.' "

Daja said she was cooperating and had reached her cousin in the lobby.

"I walked over to hand her her coat," she said. "Soon as I did that, he grabbed me by my collar and said, 'I told you to leave and you're trespassing!' "

Daja said she was frightened and began to scream.

"He threw me and I hit the wall of the lobby," she said. "He pushed me all the way through the lobby."

An officer then put handcuffs on her and put her in a police car.

The handcuffs hurt, Daja said. "My hand was just bleeding. My wrists swelled up -- they were on so tight I couldn't even move my hands."

Daja was later released to her mother, who took her to Women & Children's Hospital.

"The one who mainly roughed her up was the security guard," Oates said. "When she got slammed up against the wall, she got a little cut on her eyebrow."

Oates also accused police of unnecessary roughness.

"Her wrists were really swollen because the handcuffs were just too tight," she said. "They were bleeding."

Oates said her daughter spent four hours waiting in the busy emergency room and had to return the next day to be treated.

"It shouldn't have escalated to the point where it got," Oates said. "The police knew it could have been defused, because there wasn't a serious issue, there wasn't a fight at all."

A 10th grader at Villa Maria Academy, Deja must appear in Family Court on March 2 to face a charge of criminal trespass.

Glascott said the case is in the court system now, but if the family has a grievance they should file a formal complaint with the Police Department.

He also pointed out that the police escorted out dozens of youth that day and Daja was the "only person deemed necessary" to be arrested. "If you're asked to leave," Glascott said, "you need to leave."

e-mail: acardinale@buffnews.com

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