Saturday, 2:15 PM
Taunton man describes fight with teenaged girls
By John R. Ellement, Globe staff
TAUNTON – A 17-year-old high school junior today pleaded not guilty to charges she joined with two other girls and attacked a 63- year-old disabled man after he had angrily ordered them to stop their horseplay in a busy city street.
Angelina Berwick was arrested by Taunton Police Tuesday night shortly after 6 p.m. when she and the two girls allegedly attacked Paul Pawlowski, who became upset after his grandson was forced to abruptly drive around them to avoid hitting at least one of the girls.
In an interview Wednesday night outside his High steet home, Pawlowski acknowledged that he used a racial slur during the incident and said he "kept getting in'' the face of one of the teen girls involved.
According to Pawlowski, his grandson parked the car on Cushman street outside his home after he narrowly missed hitting one of the teens. Pawlowski, who lost sight in his right eye in an accident 20 years ago and who uses a cane to walk, started shouting at them and then crossed the street, intensifying the incident.
"“They were in the road, (and) they don’t belong in the road,’’ he said. “It was back and forth with words. I pushed one of them. Not physically. Pushed her to her limit, talking. I kept walking into her and she kept backing up.''
Pawlowski, who is white, said one of the girls used a racial slur usually aimed at African-Americans, towards him. He said he then used the same racial slur, directing it towards the girls, several times afterwards.
According to Berwick’s mother, Shannon Berwick, two of the girls were black.
“She used that word, the one that attacked me, she used the word first,’’ Pawlowski said. “I kept provoking her verbally from there on. That’s what led to everything happening. I kept getting her in her face, ‘Where’s your home?’ ’’
During the confrontation, he said he held his cane out in front of him parallel to the ground, and that one of the girls grabbed the cane. They began struggling and he said he was suddenly knocked to the ground, leaving him with scrapes on the palm of his left hand.
“I guess somebody grabbed me and pulled me down,’’ he said.
According to a Taunton police report filed in court, Berwick was in standing front of Pawlowski pushing at him while another, unidentified girl, jumped onto the slightly built disabled man's back.
Berwick’s mother, Shannon Berwick, insisted in a Globe telephone interview that her daughter and friends were the victims of an overly aggressive Pawlowski who became enraged when the teenaged girls “mouthed off’’ at him.
“The man was angry because the kids mouthed off,’’ she said. “That doesn’t mean he could get aggressive towards the children.’’
Shannon Berwick said her daughter called her from the scene. Her daughter said a total four friends – three girls and one boy -- were walking down High street, that they were fooling around, and that at least one of the girls ended up in the middle of the road.
In that cell phone call, she said her daughter told her that Pawlowski repeatdly used the racial epithet against all the girls and also called them “whores'' and that "he started yelling racial slurs at the black kids.''
Shannon Berwick said she is thinking of applying for criminal complaints against Pawlowski on behalf of her daughter.
“There was no need for him to go after her with his cane,’’ Shannon Berwick said. “All they did was try to stop him from hitting them...I can understand that maybe he was upset, but you don’t go after them with a cane.''
Pawlowski said his oldest daughter was struck and killed by a car in Connecticut this May while crossing the street. He said that loss may have played a role in his response to the teens.
Shannon Berwick said the high school junior will be staying close to home in the near future, something the mother said her daughter routinely is required to do. “I am keeping her close and then I know there won’t be any problem,’’ the mother said.” She’s a good kid, a good kid. She tries in school.’’
A juvenile who was allegedly with Berwick has been charged while police are looking for other girls involved. Berwick was released on $500 cash bail.
At least two cars, their drivers or passengers having witnessed parts of the attack, stopped on High street and were later interviewed by police. One of those was William Moclair, a retired Department of Mental Retardation worker who was driving past in his pickup truck.
“They were scuffling,’’ he said of the girls and Pawlowski. “They (the girls) were bouncing him off the fence.’’
Moclair said he drove past, did a U-turn and by the time he got back to the intersection of High and Cushman streets, the violence had ended. He drove up the street, searching for the girls, and later learned they had been taken into police custody. He found himself standing talking with Pawlowski.
“He was talking respectfully,’’ Moclair recalled. He said he did not smell any alcohol on Pawlowski’s breath. “He didn’t use swear words, he didn’t say the word black or the N word.''
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