Undercover Cop Among Latest Arrests In Manhattan Motorcycle Melee
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – An undercover police detective and another man were arrested Tuesday in connection with the motorcycle gang attack on an SUV driver last week in Manhattan.
Detective Wojciech Braszczok, 32, surrendered Tuesday and faces riot and criminal mischief charges, police confirmed. The cop’s attorney hasn’t responded to messages. Braszczok, a 10-year veteran on the force, was one of at least three officers who participated in the ride that made national headlines after it was caught on video and posted to YouTube.
Police announced Tuesday night they’ve arrested Clinton Caldwell, 32, of Brooklyn, who is charged with gang assault, assault and criminal mischief. He is the sixth biker charged in the alleged attack.
Braszczok and Caldwell were in custody at Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday night, CBS 2′s Hazel Sanchez reported. They are expected to be arraigned Wednesday.
Braszczok’s lawyer, Phil Karasyk, said Monday that the detective had only witnessed other bikers attacking the vehicle. But investigators discovered video evidence showing him punching an already damaged back window, then twice kicking the side of the SUV before leaving the scene, according to two people familiar with the case. The people weren’t authorized to discuss the inquiry and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
NYPD Internal Affairs investigators have been looking into Braszczok’s conduct because he didn’t report until three days later that he had been at the rally.
The expectation that officers will act if they witness a crime does not apply for undercover officers.
Carrying no badge or gun and aware of cases in which officers had been suspended or dismissed for blowing their cover, Braszczok ”had no other option, so he drove away,” said Karasyk, who works with the Detectives’ Endowment Association union.
According to the Detectives Endowment Association, the arrest means that Braszczok is suspended from the department, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.
Appearing at a Hispanic Heritage Month event at 1 Police Plaza on Tuesday night, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly declined to comment on Braszczok’s arrest.
One of the officers riding that Sunday is a narcotics detective named Samir Gonsalves, CBS 2′s Tony Aiello reported. He made news in April when he was arrested for allegedly pushing an officer who was trying to break up an argument between Gonsalves and his girlfriend.
A second biker with a badge is an undercover officer assigned to the Internal Affairs department, according to Miller, a former New York deputy police commissioner. It was unclear Tuesday night if that officer is Braszczok.
“The irony there, of course, is they’re the ones who track down police for misconduct,” Miller said on “CBS This Morning.” “He’s been assigned there about three weeks. He hadn’t started his undercover assignment yet, but he was riding along. And he is talking to his lawyers about whether to meet with prosecutors or be questioned by police. So the NYPD hasn’t interviewed him yet.”
Meanwhile, police released new images Tuesday of four bikers they are calling persons of interest in the Manhattan motorcycle melee.
So far, four bikers have been criminally charged in connection with the melee.
Craig Wright, 29, of Brooklyn, pleaded not guilty when he was arraigned Tuesday on gang assault, assault and unlawful imprisonment charges.
Bail was set at $150,000 bond or $100,000 cash. He’s due back in court later this month.
Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Samantha Turino said Wright punched the driver, Alexian Lien, through a broken window and then joined in stomping him on the street after he was pulled out of his Range Rover in Washington Heights.
Wright’s lawyer, Mitchell Elman, cautioned against any “rush to judgment” in the highly scrutinized case.
“Mr. Wright, obviously, has every right to fight these charges,” he said.
The Sept. 29 encounter, which was partially captured on video and posted to YouTube, began when one of the bikers cut in front of Lien’s Range Rover on the Henry Hudson Parkway and slowed down, forcing the SUV to bump his motorcycle’s rear tire.
Watch The Full Video Below: WARNING — GRAPHIC IMAGES
After the collision, the bikers stop and surround the SUV. Some of the riders dismounted and approached the vehicle. Police said some began damaging the Range Rover, hitting it with their helmets and slashing its tires, though it’s not clear from the video.
Lien, who was in the car with his wife and 2-year-old child, took off, striking motorcyclist Edwin “Jay” Mieses before heading north. Lien’s wife said they had no other choice but to flee.
After being chased by the bikers for nearly two miles, Lien was pulled out of his car and beaten when he got off the highway around West 178th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, police said.
Lien was taken to the hospital after the attack, where he needed stitches to his face. His wife and child were unhurt.
Mieses broke both legs and suffered a spine injury that his family said will leave him paralyzed.
Three other suspects have already been charged in the case.
Christopher Cruz, 28, was arraigned last week on misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and unlawful imprisonment.
Police said Cruz is the one seen at the start of the video slowing down in front of the Range Rover, a move authorities said triggered the chain of events that led to the assault.
His attorney has promised a fight to clear his name.
Reginald Chance, 37, was arraigned Sunday on gang assault and other charges.
Authorities said he is seen on the YouTube video smashing the Range Rover’s window with his helmet just before Lien was dragged out and beaten.
Chance’s lawyer, Gregory Watts, acknowledged his client broke the window, but said Chance didn’t participate in the assault and said they will “hotly contest those allegations.”
Another rider accused of participating in the beating, Robert Sims, 35, of Brooklyn, was arraigned Saturday on charges including gang assault.
Police said Sims is seen in the video opening Lien’s driver’s side door in the middle of the Henry Hudson Parkway. His lawyer, Luther Williams, said Sims also denies the charges.
Another biker, Allen Edwards, surrendered to police last week, but was later released without charges.
Lien has not been charged with any crime.
Meanwhile, the attorney for the man who recorded the original video of the incident on his helmet-mounted camera said his client did nothing wrong.
Kevin Bresloff was seen at a police precinct over the weekend where he was questioned by investigators and released.
In an exclusive interview with CBS News Senior Correspondent John Miller, his attorney said Bresloff turned on his camera shortly after the bikers encountered the Range Rover.
“From speaking to him, what he saw, or what he believes that he saw, was a water bottle come out of the sunroof of the car,” said defense attorney Andrew Vecere.
The video captures the bikers attacking the SUV, but ends just before police said Lien was assaulted, sparking speculation that Bresloff may have turned off the camera.
His attorney disputes that claim.
“We absolutely deny that allegation,” Vecere said. “We categorically deny that he in any way tampered with the video. It’s a shame, but that’s when it died. The battery just stopped working, there is no more footage. ”
In a statement to “CBS This Morning,” Bresloff said, “Based upon the sole fact that I ride a motorcycle, the public has decided that I am a thug or a gang member. This is simply not true. I was a spectator of these unfortunate events that occurred.”
Vecere said Bresloff is not in a gang and is not affiliated with a motorcycle club. He said his client was simply documenting the incident.
“He is not at this point being looked as having done anything wrong,” he said. “He is simply a motorcycle enthusiast who happens to have had a helmet camera on.”
Bresloff is not facing any charges. He is being considered a witness, Miller reported.
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