THE CALLS AND emails have been pouring in since yesterday's column about a 16-year-old straight-A high school student who says he suffered serious genital injuries when he was roughed up by cops.
"Today I have the responsibility to go over this situation with my own 14-year-old son, so when he is traveling around the city he will be aware," one mom wrote.
Another reader: "Really? A kid assaults, yes assaults, an officer and you're blaming the cop? As for the kid's injuries to his genitals . . . tough s---."
One reader said he was torn about the case. "I'm not saying it's just, only that it's a tough call. I hope justice is served properly."
The column reported that Darrin Manning said he was walking to a basketball game with about a dozen Mathematics, Civics & Sciences Charter School teammates Jan. 7 when they were stopped by police at Broad Street and Girard Avenue.
Police said the students were wearing ski masks and ran off. Manning and other players said they were wearing hoodies, hats and scarves that the school had given them to keep warm on a record cold day.
During the arrest, Manning said, a male cop roughed him up, and while he was handcuffed, a female cop pulled on his genitals so hard while frisking him that a testicle ruptured. Doctors who performed emergency surgery told his mother they didn't know if he'd be able to father children.
Manning has been charged with resisting arrest and assault on a police officer, which he denies.
"All I wanted to know was why they stopped me, but they wouldn't tell me," he said. "I didn't do anything wrong."
Many readers were angry that my column mentioned the races of Manning - who is black - and the first responding officer - who is white. The female officer's name and race have not been confirmed. Manning's mother, his coach, school officials and an increasing number of people in the community are convinced that race played a part in why the group of black students were stopped.
Others insisted that because of several incidents of large groups of teenagers starting trouble in the city, it only made sense to stop the students. One police officer told me that if they had found guns or drugs on the teens, the cops would have been hailed as heroes - "but because they didn't, now they're the enemy."
I don't know about that logic. But I do know that something is seriously wrong when black kids can't shield themselves from record cold temperatures without being targeted as suspicious.
A police Internal Affairs investigation has been launched. In the meantime, a growing number of community groups are coming to Manning's defense, including the state chapter of the National Action Network.
"This is the highest form of abuse of power by police to date, and the most abusive form of stop and frisk that we've seen," said Paula Peebles, of the Pennsylvania State Chapter of the National Action Network. Peebles said the group will ask the U.S. Justice Department to investigate, and has called for a meeting with Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.
A rally is planned at Broad and Girard at 4 p.m. Thursday.
On Twitter: @NotesFromHel