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6 arrested, 11 court officers hurt when families argue at murder arraignment, then take it outside

Posted Sep 23, 2013 12:55 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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When a dispute erupted Friday during a murder arraignment at a Long Island, N.Y., courthouse, court officials shepherded arguing family members of the 20-year-old defendant, Pedro Merchant and the 17-year-old victim, Dante Quinones, into the hallway.

But the battle escalated and eventually spilled out into the street in front of the First District Court in Hempstead, involving some 100 people. Six men were arrested and charged with criminal contempt and rioting and 11 court officers were injured, none of them seriously, according to CNN and the New York Daily News.

"Unfortunately as the crowd started growing and yelling, it just fed into itself," said a Nassau County police spokesman. "They became very irate and would not cooperate with instructions from the judge and court officers."

A WABC article links to a video of some of what happened, showing shouting in the hallway as courtroom spectators are urged into the hallway and out of the building.

The station says an outburst of support for the defendant, after the judge refused to grant him bail, sparked the incident.

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