2002-11-16 / Front Page

Beloved Barber Busted!

Supporters Say He Was
Arrested On Bogus Warrants
By Gary G. Toms

Supporters Say He Was
Arrested On Bogus Warrants
By Gary G. Toms

Robert "Pepe" Williams has been working as a barber in the Far Rockaway community for close to 20 years. Many friends, family members, and community residents are outraged over his recent arrest regarding "outstanding warrants" during a birthday celebration last weekend.Robert "Pepe" Williams has been working as a barber in the Far Rockaway community for close to 20 years. Many friends, family members, and community residents are outraged over his recent arrest regarding "outstanding warrants" during a birthday celebration last weekend.

Last weekend, on the evening of November 9, Robert Williams was celebrating his 54th birthday with more than 200 people, consisting of family and close friends, at 1622 Central Avenue, a barbershop owned by the celebrant. Williams, born and raised in Jamaica, West Indies, is a long-time resident of the Far Rockaway area. He is known to many people in the community as "Pepe." He came to America many years ago in search of a better life and an opportunity to open his very own barbershop. While he has worked at several well-known local barbershops over the last 12 years, such as "Toby's Unisex," he finally realized his dream when he opened the "Community Unisex" a few years ago. He has been very happy residing and working in the Rockaway area, but that all changed last weekend. Now, Williams is seeking answers and justice.

According to Williams, and family members and friends who were present, between 15-20 police officers from the 101 Precinct, uniformed and plain-clothes, entered the shop and asked Williams to step outside. He complied. Once outside, Williams claims that several officers surrounded him and began to ask him a series of questions. Stunned, he began to ask the officers why he was being confronted. He then stated that the officers asked him to get into an awaiting police car.

"I did everything they asked me to do. I didn't want any trouble from them. I was nervous because I had no idea why they were questioning me," said the shop owner.

"They asked me my name, and I told them. Then, they entered it into a computer, and they said that I had two outstanding warrants. One was for an assault against a woman nine years ago, and the other was for selling bootlegged CD's and movie videotapes. I told them they had the wrong man, and that I had no idea what they were talking about."

The proprietor told the officers that he did not know the woman that he was accused of assaulting. He also told them that he comes into his shop on a daily basis, and that he has never sold any counterfeit items.

Williams alleges that one of the plain-clothes officers told him, "You fit the description of someone we're looking for." He was then told that he was under arrest, and the officers then transferred him to Central Booking, in Kew Gardens (Queens), where he was placed in a holding cell from 1:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. Williams said that when he finally went before the judge, there was never any mention of the warrants. He claims the judge simply told him, "Next time, just turn down the music down a little." The judge then dismissed the case.

A few days later, Williams contacted The Wave in order to try and clear his name and obtain an official apology from the 101 Precinct.

"I don't understand how this all happened. They obviously had the wrong man. I'm too busy with running my business to go to another section of Rockaway to sell counterfeit material. I have never assaulted anybody. I'm not going to do something like that and risk losing my business."

Williams told The Wave that there were just too many inconsistencies regarding what police told him when affecting the arrest.

"If I had a warrant out for my arrest, dating back to nine years ago, why did they wait until now to come after me? Most of the officers that came into my shop that night are familiar with me. I speak to them right outside, and I wave when they pass by. They know me, and that's what hurts the most," he stated.

"They know I'm not a criminal, but I was taken through the system as though I was. They did this in front of my wife, my children, my family and closest friends. I was embarrassed and it hurts. Do you understand? I was locked in a cell like I was no good. I have done nothing wrong, and someone has to answer for this."

Williams also informed The Wave that the officers never displayed a warrant or any documentation to support their claims.

"That man deserves a community service award, not time in jail," said Jamel Moore, a transit worker who frequents the shop.

"He has given a lot of young men from this community jobs in this shop as barbers. When no one would give them a chance, Pepe would. He took them in and kept them off the streets. Even if they had problems in the past, he still worked with them. That says a lot about his character. Arresting him, over some bull@#$% is the equivalent of a slap in the face."

A fellow barber, who is known by many in Rockaway as "Pierre", also defended the man who is noted for playing Bob Marley tunes for his customers and proudly displaying symbols of his Jamaican heritage.

"That man has never done harm to anybody. The police owe him an apology. They sullied the reputation of a good man, and that's not right. There are a lot of people in this community that will tell you the same thing."

Darren Mitchell, a court officer and Rockaway resident, told The Wave that Williams has been his barber since the age of 11, and that Williams now gives his young son Terrence haircuts.

"People have been coming to Pepe for years, and now they are bringing their children in for cuts," said Mitchell.

"You wouldn't get that kind of following, respect, or reputation if you weren't a good man."

The Wave spoke with 101 Precinct Community Affairs officers, P.O. Mike Valentino and Detective Willie Olmeda, to get the NYPD's assessment of the incident. We were not able to receive information by the time we went to press. Any official statements submitted on behalf of the New York City Police Department, and the 101 Precinct, will be published in a future edition of The Wave.

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