No Laughing Matter: Comic Cuffed While Shooting Wounded Party Animal

Outside Solas, Aug. 4Sunda Croonquist A photo taken by Ms. Croonquist before her arrest.

She was only trying to take pictures of the rowdy crowds that congregate every weekend mere steps from her apartment. Then, she ended up in handcuffs.

A 51-year-old standup comedian was arrested on Friday night after trying to take pictures of a woman on a stretcher outside of nightlife hotspot Solas.

Sunda Croonquist, who lives a few doors away from the club, had just returned with her husband and two kids from a party in New Jersey when they came upon a crowd spilling into the street around 1:40 a.m. Gawkers were eyeing an intoxicated woman on a stretcher.

Outraged by the behavior of the crowd of revelers, Ms. Croonquist began to take pictures. “The crowd was laughing at my 9-year-old daughter who was having trouble walking through a crowd of over 80 people congregating on the sidewalk,” wrote Ms. Croonquist’s husband, Mark H. Zafrin in an e-mail. “My wife was mostly in Los Angeles this year and was shocked by the weekend mayhem. It became acutely personal when my daughters (a) had to see a young girl laying in her own vomit on the street (b) had to navigate through a huge crowd on their own sidewalk.”

Police didn’t take kindly to Ms. Croonquist standing in the street and snapping photos. A police spokesman said that she was told to return to the sidewalk, refused, and was then escorted to the sidewalk. She then returned to the street and ended up in a confrontation with Sergeant Timothy Brown. She faced off chest-to-chest with the sergeant, who told her to step back — an order she ignored, the spokesman said. Ms. Croonquist was then put under arrest, and according to a criminal complaint, flailed her arms and kicked her legs while being handcuffed. She faces charges of obstruction of governmental administration, resisting arrest and harassment.

But Ms. Croonquist’s husband has a different version of events. “When my wife approached [the sergeant] to discuss the zoo outside of Solas he demanded that she get on the sidewalk, that the street is dangerous,” he wrote. “The sergeant never gave my wife any opportunity to respond to his only order to ‘get out of the street’ – he immediately lunged after her and pushed her to the ground.”

solasMelvin Felix

“She was pushed first by the sergeant who then yelled, ‘Cuff her,’ and two other officers forcibly pushed her to the ground to cuff her,” he added. “She should have been calmly spoken to, not forced to the ground in front of my children.”

Stunned at what was happening, Mr. Zafrin pleaded with the officers to let his wife go. “The Sergeant told me that if I did not shut up he would arrest me also,” he said.

Mr. Zafrin recalled asking an officer, “What will I do with my kids?”

“He laughed and said they would go to ACS (Administration for Children’s Services).”

Now, Mr. Zafrin says his wife has a pinched nerve in her hand that keeps her from typing or holding a microphone — putting a halt on her career. “She and my children have suffered irreparable psychological damage do the actions of this Sergeant and his minion,” Mr. Zafrin wrote.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Zafrin, himself a lawyer, is considering a lawsuit. He said he has photos that show marks on his wife’s arm from the arrest. But in the past few days Mr. Zafrin said repeatedly that discussing the matter with his wife has been difficult because she’s still shaken up by her arrest. They can likely look forward to more big crowds outside of Solas and another busy bar nearby, the 13th Step, which Mr. Zafrin said were “open sores in the neighborhood.”

Ms. Croonquist’s court date is set for Feb. 1 of next year. But it won’t be the first time she’s dealt with controversy in the courtroom. Back in 2009 she was sued by her mother-in-law for jokes in her stand-up routine that made light of the fact that the comedienne is a black woman who married into a Jewish family.