This story ran in October 27th, 2005 edition of The Mirror. Let this serve as a cautionary tale for all parents heading to The Grape this weekend.

By Elizabeth Bae

Last weekend, hundreds of parents came to Fairfield’s campus and Fairfield Beach Road to spend time with their kids and take them out to dinner. But this year, one of them had mug shots and fingerprints taken at the Fairfield Police station.

White Plains, N.Y., resident John McCarthy was arrested across the street from The Seagrape Cafe at 2:10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23.

“I saw his [McCarthy’s] face in the dirt,” said Kristen Vissichelli ‘06. “They were cuffing his hands behind his back and holding him down on the ground.”

The 60-year-old’s son, Mike McCarthy ‘06, said an argument arose when bouncers started clearing out the Grape after last call. McCarthy and his parents were finishing drinks when they heard “everybody get the hell out,” according to the younger McCarthy.

“One of the bouncers came over and was giving us grief about getting us out,” he said.

“The next thing he [the bouncer] says is ‘f- this and f that,’” said McCarthy. “That’s when my dad said ‘don’t ever curse in front of my wife.’”

A verbal argument between the father, son and bouncers escalated into a physical fight of “pushing and shoving,” whereupon the bouncers kicked them out, said McCarthy.

Outside of the bar, the younger McCarthy said his father was trying to “rip the bouncer” off of him [Mike McCarthy], “which any father would do.”

“By the time I got up, there was a cop restraining me,” said McCarthy. “And there were three police officers on top of my dad across the street, putting handcuffs on him.”

John McCarthy, who works in commercial real estate and has never before been arrested, was charged with interfering with an officer and breach of peace. He was able to leave the Fairfield Police station with his wife at 3:30 a.m. and his court date is scheduled for Tuesday. The arresting officer, Anthony Vaspasiano, was unable to be reached for comment.

At first, bystanders at the scene were confused.

“I didn’t see it that well,” said Dan Fahy ‘06. “One of the bouncer’s shirts was ripped. I thought it was just a fight. Then after everything kind of cleared out, I saw it was a dad. I was drunk and I still don’t really know what was going on.”

Bystanders criticized police for using excessive force, calling the physically-involved arrest of McCarthy disturbing, awful and humiliating. More than one female onlooker was crying.

“I turned away when people started booing and chanting ‘let him go,’” said Meg O’Brien ‘06. “But before that, I saw the cop with his knee in Mr. McCarthy’s back. It was horrible.”

“They [police] should be able to use a little better judgment in discerning what a threat is,” said a senior who wished to remain anonymous.

Mike McCarthy said he was “infuriated” with how police handled his father.

“I have this image in my mind of his head pressed up against the pavement,” he said. “No son wants to see that. My biggest concern was for my mother that night.”

“She came over trying to calm me down, and seeing her upset I knew I had to leave,” he said. “I feel awful for my mother having to see her husband and her son go through that.”

Employees at the Seagrape Cafe said there is a tape of John McCarthy grabbing the bouncer first. However, the Seagrape Inn said the tapes were unavailable because they were being reviewed by police.

Some students said they believed police actions were linked to a front page Connecticut Post article on Oct. 13 that spotlighted rowdy drunkenness on Fairfield Beach Road.

The article said that Fairfield Police Chief Joseph Sambrook “said he could assign extra officers at Fairfield Beach to the extent that manpower and his budget allow.”

O’Brien commented on the large number of officers at the scene.

“Every single cop in the town had to be there,” she said. “Someone could’ve robbed a bank and no one would’ve gotten there in time.”

The Fairfield police department released the police report but failed to return three phone calls seeking further comment.  

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