2 anti-violence organizers accused of beating ex-roomie
Washington, Pa. — Two western Pennsylvania community organizers with a local Stop the Violence group have been charged with severely beating a former roommate with whom they had a property dispute.
Washington police Chief Chris Luppino said Nikole Ardeno and Emanuel Velez, both 30, allegedly jumped the man as he was walking down the street Tuesday about 4:30 p.m. The defendants kicked the victim as he was unconscious, causing him to have seizures and vomit blood, Luppino said.
Ardeno was still wearing the same “Stop the Violence” T-shirt that she had on the night before when she was a co-coordinator of a march in the city protesting two recent shootings, the chief said. Ardeno, Velez, and the victim, Joshua Magraff, are all members of the group, Luppino said.
Ardeno “is a big part of that group,” the chief said, and Velez “is very active with them.”
The group’s leader, Suzanne Kelley, said she hoped to speak with Ardeno about her version of the incident, but said the group doesn’t condone violence.
“We do not promote violence at all, and I can’t believe this is going on. I don’t want the community to get a negative effect from this because they back us,” Kelley said of the defendants.
Magraff was still unconscious and in critical condition Wednesday at UPMC Mercy hospital in Pittsburgh, Luppino said. A hospital spokeswoman could not update Magraff’s condition Thursday because officials there don’t release information about alleged crime victims.
Police believe Ardeno and Velez attacked Magraff because he had gone to an apartment all three shared to collect his belongings after moving out. Ardeno and Velez had come to the police station about 20 minutes before the alleged attack to claim that Magraff was burglarizing the apartment, but police said Magraff appeared to only be taking items that belonged to him as he moved out, Luppino said.
Online court records don’t list an attorney for the defendants who face a preliminary hearing Nov. 10 on charges of aggravated assault, conspiracy, simple assault and disorderly conduct.
Ardeno remained in the Washington County Jail on Thursday, but Velez had posted bail. He does not have a listed phone number.