January 3, 1996 in Nation/World

Driver Apologizes To Families

Associated Press

A man who drove into a crowd of New Year’s revelers apologized to the families of those who were hurt and was freed on bail Tuesday, while his lawyer insisted he was defending himself and his pregnant girlfriend.

Anthony Brooks is due back in court Jan. 22 on charges including eight counts of assault with intent to murder. He was freed on $1,000 bail.

“I just want to say I’m sorry to the families of the people who got hurt,” Brooks said. “Other than that, I have nothing else to say. I’m just tired, and I want to go home.”

Twenty-one people were hurt when Brooks, in a car with his girlfriend, Antoinette Labord, ran into them on a packed waterfront street a few minutes into the new year.

Police, prosecutors and witnesses said Brooks turned the car into a battering ram in his determination to free his car, driving backward and forward into people as they scrambled to get away.

One witness told police he heard Brooks threaten to run down everybody before he revved his engine, Assistant District Attorney John Julian told the court.

Brooks and Labord, who is 6-1/2 months pregnant, say Labord was driving at first, trying to inch through the crowd while beeping the horn and flashing the lights. The crowd attacked: Someone threw a bottle, breaking the car’s back window, and another person reached inside and punched Labord in the face, they say.

“We feared for our lives,” said Labord, who had a bruise below her eye.

They said Brooks tried to shield her, then they traded seats and he tried to speed away.

“He acted on the most noble instinct - the protection of his fiancee and his unborn child,” defense lawyer Frederick Barry Jr. said.

Labord had said earlier that race played a major part in the incident. Brooks and Labord are black; the crowd was mostly white. But she stopped short of that outside court.

“I was spit on. So you go figure. That’s hate, when there’s somebody spitting on you, hitting you for no reason at all,” she said.

She said she planned to contact the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to explore possible complaints. Nobody answered the telephone at the local NAACP offices.

Police insisted Tuesday that Brooks acted out of impatience and anger, not fear.

“The damage to the car was done after the fact,” police spokesman Brendan Flynn said.

Prosecutors told the court Brooks had been arrested four previous times on charges including assault and battery and assault with intent to rape, though all were dismissed.

But his family said Brooks, 26, is a responsible man who works two jobs to pay for the apartment he and Labord share in the Boston suburb of Malden.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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