Stop the Violence members accused of assaulting man

October 29, 2014
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From left, Nikole Ardeno and Emanuel Velez
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Emanuel Velez
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Nikole Ardeno

Two members of a local anti-violence group are accused of beating a man unconscious in the city Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after one of them helped lead a peace rally through the streets of Washington.

Nikole Ardeno, one of the co-coordinators for the Stop the Violence group, and Emanuel Velez, both of Washington, were arrested and charged with punching and kicking the man, leaving him critically injured.

Washington police said Joshua Magraff was walking in the 1000 block of Jefferson Avenue shortly before 4:30 p.m. when Ardeno, driving a sport-utility vehicle, stopped and punched him in the face through her open window.

Velez then got out of the vehicle from the passenger side and allegedly punched Magraff in the head, knocking him to the ground, police said.

Police said Ardeno and Velez then kicked Magraff while he lay unconscious on the sidewalk, causing him to convulse and vomit blood.

Officers stopped the SUV farther down on Jefferson Avenue moments later and found Ardeno wearing the same white Stop the Violence T-shirt she wore during Monday’s night rally, Washington police Chief Chris Luppino said.

“She’s a big part of that group,” Luppino said. “He’s very active with them.”

Magraff, 26, of Washington, was still unconscious Wednesday afternoon and in critical condition at UPMC-Mercy hospital’s intensive care unit in Pittsburgh, Luppino said.

Investigators think Ardeno and Velez, both 30 and living at 595 E. Maiden St., attacked Magraff because he was a former roommate and went to their apartment to retrieve his belongings. Ardeno and Velez had filed a civil complaint at the Washington Police Department about 20 minutes before the assault claiming Magraff burglarized their residence. Luppino said Magraff appeared to take only his items from the apartment upon leaving and went to another residence before the attack.

“(Magraff) said he lived there and was not allowed to get his belongings,” Luppino said.

Ardeno and Velez both face felony charges of aggravated assault and conspiracy and misdemeanors counts of simple assault and disorderly conduct. District Judge Joshua Kanalis arraigned them Tuesday night and they were taken to the Washington County jail on $25,000 cash bond.

The Stop the Violence group held a march Monday night from Lincoln Terrace to the Washington County Courthouse demanding an end to violence in the wake of two unrelated shootings in the city early Saturday morning. Ardeno helped to lead the march, although Velez and Magraff, who is also a member of the group, did not attend the rally.

Suzanne Kelley, the leader of Stop the Violence, said she wanted to speak to Ardeno to hear the full details of what happened, but that she does not condone violence in any way.

“We do not promote violence at all, and I can’t believe this is going on,” Kelley said. “I don’t want the community to get a negative effect from this because they back us.”

Matthew McGlone, 21, of Washington, was shot to death behind the Comfort Inn bar along Jefferson Avenue less than three hours after Avery Selvey, 39, of Canonsburg, was shot in the chest. No arrests were made in either case, and Luppino said investigators don’t think Tuesday afternoon’s assault is related to the shootings.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and Patch.com. He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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