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Sisters say Philly cops got rough while searching home

Michele Martines doesn't allow guns in her house. Not even water guns. She's hated them since goons with guns riddled her father, mob associate Frank "Frankie Flowers" D'Alfonso, with bullets in 1985 and shot her husband, Ronald Martines, to death the next year in a drug dispute.

Michele Martines doesn't allow guns in her house.

Not even water guns.

She's hated them since goons with guns riddled her father, mob associate Frank "Frankie Flowers" D'Alfonso, with bullets in 1985 and shot her husband, Ronald Martines, to death the next year in a drug dispute.

So when the cops pounded on her door before dawn Saturday, demanding to search her South Philadelphia house for guns and gunmen, she didn't hesitate to let them in to look around, even though they had no warrant.

Still, within minutes, her encounter with police turned violent.

After a brief search, Martines said, the cops wanted to scour the house more thoroughly and demanded that Martines and her older sister, Gina D'Alfonso, wait outside - at 4 a.m., in the ice-cold rain and in their pajamas - while the cops searched, an allegation police deny.

Martines refused, inviting the officers to sit inside the house with her and her sister while they all awaited the search warrant.

She stood up to light a cigarette - and suddenly, she said, she felt herself flying through the air.

A portly, perturbed sergeant, later identified as Sgt. William Stewart, had thrown her against the wall and staircase, she said. As she struggled to rise, Stewart grabbed her hair and repeatedly bashed her head into the wall, she said.

D'Alfonso, 52, watched the incident unfold with growing horror.

"I know if I interfere I'm going to get locked up, too," D'Alfonso said. "But I'm watching my sister, who's 51 years old, being treated like this - this went on for like five minutes - and I couldn't take it no more.

"All I did was take a step forward and put my hands up and say: 'Stop! Leave my sister alone!' And then I got hit in the back," she said.

Stewart switched his hair-pulling, head-smashing attack to D'Alfonso, the sisters said. As two other cops handcuffed them, Martines and D'Alfonso said, Stewart bellowed: "You people!"

Martines thought his disgust came from the family's past Mafia connections. D'Alfonso attributed it to a distaste for Italian Americans.

The sisters rode to jail in their pajamas. In the holding cell, their hair fell out in chunks, they said. "We could have made a wig with the hair that was on the floor," D'Alfonso said.

Both women, who had spotless criminal records until Saturday, were charged with resisting arrest and related offenses.

The women yesterday filed a complaint about Stewart with the police Internal Affairs Bureau.

South Detectives Capt. Laurence Nodiff disputes the sisters' version of events, saying his records show no mention that they suffered injuries or needed medical treatment.

But he said the officers had a good reason for being in the neighborhood - and for wanting the sisters out of their house.

Police were called to Christian Street at 3:41 a.m., after a report of a shooting, Nodiff said. At the scene, the witnesses told police they were involved in a fight with three men. One had a knife, while another had a gun he fired into the air, the witnesses told police. After the dispute, the men fled into Martines' home.

Shortly after pounding on Martines' door, police found her son Frank, 23, inside, and arrested him for aggravated assault and related offenses, Nodiff said.

"This guy was positively identified as someone who was out there with a big knife. Now [the officers] have exigent circumstances to believe there [could be] someone in that house armed with a gun who could cause further bodily injury to the police or the public," Nodiff said. "To make sure that no one is injured, the best thing to do is lock down that house."

Police are allowed to do that without a warrant, he said.

Nodiff said that the women were outside with police and were allowed to return inside to don warmer clothes. But after going inside, the women attempted to slam the door on the cops, Nodiff said.

As the dispute worsened, Martines kneed a police supervisor in the groin, leading the officers to subdue and arrest her, Nodiff said. D'Alfonso intervened, prompting her arrest, he added.

After the women were arrested and the police obtained the warrant, a search of the house turned up a holster and a 6-inch throwing knife, but no guns and no other suspects.

A second suspect, Anthony DeMeo, 28, of South Philadelphia, surrendered to police at 10 p.m. Wednesday. He was charged with gun crimes and other offenses.

"If the two occupants of this location feel they were victims of inappropriate police action, we would certainly encourage them to make an Internal Affairs complaint. Our Internal Affairs unit would investigate thoroughly and submit a conclusion to the police commissioner," Nodiff said.

Yesterday, Martines did just that.

She denied she assaulted the officer.

"I got an Italian temper, yeah. But I'm a nice person. I go to church. I tell the freaking bus driver to have a nice day. I never kneed a cop in his groin in my life, and I'm not going to start at 51 years old," she said.

Since her arrest, Martines said, she has cried daily and called out sick from her job in food services at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. She says she still has pain from bruises on her torso, head and legs.

"My son was involved in some sort of confrontation, and absolutely, he's responsible for his actions," Martines said. "But me and my sister didn't deserve what we got."

Staff writer Stephanie Farr contributed to this report.