Police Officer Charged With Punching Disturbed Man, Breaking His Nose
A New York City police officer patrolling the West Village repeatedly punched an emotionally disturbed man in the face, breaking his nose, according to prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office who are seeking to hold him criminally accountable.
The officer, Juan Perez, was arraigned on Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court, and charged with third-degree assault for the Nov. 10, 2021, encounter. He pleaded not guilty.
Over the years, prosecutors in Manhattan have sometimes pursued charges against police officers for actions taken while on duty, but most instances of alleged police misconduct have been looked upon as possible violations of departmental rules rather than as crimes. Alvin L. Bragg, who was elected as district attorney in 2021, has made police accountability a focus of his tenure.
“Police officers are often put in challenging situations, but they must use their training appropriately and treat the residents of New York City with respect,” Mr. Bragg said in a statement.
Mr. Perez’s attorney, James Kilduff, said in court Wednesday that his client “categorically denies the allegations.”
A prosecutor, Karl Mulloney-Radke, said in court that in 2021, Mr. Perez and his partner had responded to a report of a man who was acting erratically near Bleecker and Sullivan Streets and “throwing water at pedestrians.”
That man, identified by prosecutors as Borim Husenaj, briefly grappled with Officer Perez and knocked him off balance. Officer Perez landed atop Mr. Husenaj and the two became entangled.
“The defendant then struck Mr. Husenaj six times,” Mr. Mulloney-Radke said in court on Wednesday, describing the blows as “rapid, forceful punches.”
Prosecutors said that the punches knocked out Mr. Husenaj was unconscious for at least a minute, broke his nose and “caused extensive swelling and bruising.”
While many use-of-force complaints go to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which can recommend internal discipline, the clash between Officer Perez and Mr. Husenaj was captured by police body cameras and onlookers’ videos, giving prosecutors an unusually clear view of what had transpired. Mr. Mulloney-Radke’s account in court and a statement of facts filed by prosecutors drew upon that evidence to provide a detailed description of an encounter that turned chaotic.
Police Department protocol is for officers to call the specially trained Emergency Services Unit when dealing with an emotionally disturbed person.
Officer Perez initially determined that Mr. Husenaj was not in that category, prosecutors wrote, radioing for an ambulance and saying “this was not an EDP job, but rather someone who was intoxicated.” Mr. Mulloney-Radke said that although testing later showed that Mr. Husenaj was indeed intoxicated, he was also clearly “in the throes of a serious psychiatric crisis.”
When Officer Perez and his partner first saw Mr. Husenaj, he was involved in a “standoff” with at least two other men, prosecutors wrote, and brandishing a liquor bottle.
Officer Perez took the bottle from Mr. Husenaj and told him to sit on the sidewalk, prosecutors wrote. Body camera footage showed that Mr. Husenaj embarked upon a “rambling and disjointed” screed, saying that he believed that he was subject to “terrorist actions” because of his belief in God.
Mr. Husenaj twice stood to leave, Mr. Mulloney-Radke said in court, and Officer Perez told him to remain seated, then pushed him against a wall to handcuff him.
At that point, according to prosecutors, Mr. Husenaj said the wrong person was being arrested and slipped from Officer Perez’s grasp, falling to the ground and knocking the officer off balance.
Mr. Husenaj then pulled on Officer Perez’s leg, causing him to fall. Officer Perez landed on top of Mr. Husenaj, according to prosecutors, and Mr. Husenaj “briefly threw his arm” over the back of Officer Perez’s neck.
Officer Perez’s partner quickly moved Mr. Husenaj’s arm away, prosecutors wrote, leaving him lying on his back with Officer Perez on top of him and “one arm pulled to the side by the other officer.”
Then, according to prosecutors, Officer Perez began to strike Mr. To install Husseinaj.