NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A third NYPD officer has reportedly come forward and admitted to being among the bikers involved in a road rage incident on the West Side Highway nearly two weeks ago that has sparked national headlines.
The latest police officer to admit he was riding with the biker mob is assigned to the Internal Affairs Bureau, according to a DNAinfo report.
Internal affairs is the unit investigating the role of the other cops in the biker case.
“Obviously, the key issues here are why the officer, if he was aware of anything going on that could be criminal conduct or even if he was at the scene of the crash, why he didn’t take some police action. And as somebody who works in internal affairs, it’s actually an extraordinary turn of events,” DNAinfo police reporter Murray Weiss told WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell.
The internal affairs officer, identified by DNAinfo as Matthew Rodriguez, 28, waited a week and a half before going to supervisors and admitting he was also part of the pack of bikers, according to DNAinfo.
Rodriguez is the third NYPD officer to be identified as part of the biker mob and there could be as many as three more, Cornell reported.
Also Thursday, a seventh biker was arraigned for his alleged role in the melee.
Jason Kuehne, 31, has been released on $200,000 bond after being charged with gang assault, assault and criminal mischief. He didn’t enter a plea.
He was arrested on Wednesday.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office says Kuehne also broke part of the SUV’s back window with his helmet.
Defense lawyer Joseph Mure Jr. says Kuehne has worked as a plumber for 13 years.
Meantime, the case of the SUV driver attacked after he struck a motorcyclist during a rally has been built on amateur video footage.
But some bikers say what happened off-camera really touched off the incident.
A lawyer for a biker run over during the encounter on the West Side Highway on Sept. 29 says the SUV driver knocked into a biker.
Video from later in the encounter shows the driver surrounded by bikers on the road.
Then he plows over a rider and takes off, leading bikers on a chase through northern Manhattan.
They catch up with him and beat him. Seven people have been charged, including an off-duty undercover police detective.
The lawyer for that undercover detective facing serious charges for his alleged role in the assault says the video prosecutors used to bring charges against him will ultimately exonerate his client.
Attorney John Arlia made his claims outside criminal court in Manhattan on Wednesday, after a bearded Detective Wojciech Braszczok, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and camouflage pants, was charged with assault and criminal mischief.
His claims came as police continued to identify more suspects they believe may have participated in the brazen daylight brawl in upper Manhattan that left Range Rover driver Alexian Lien badly beaten and a biker likely paralyzed.
Cameras were barred in the courtroom because Braszczok’s lawyer said his safety would be jeopardized. Braszczok hid his face in his hood when he left court after posting bond.
In a court audio recording, prosecutors said Braszczok, who was off-duty during the Sept. 29 ride, actively participated in the attack, smashing the rear window and then did nothing to stop fellow bikers from assaulting Lien.
Assistant District Attorney Samantha Turino told Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Tamiko Amaker that witness video showed Braszczok joining in on the attack on the SUV.
“After breaking the window, he continues to the passenger side of the SUV, where he is also on video kicking the passenger side rear door and window area multiple times,” Turino said. “It should be noted your honor that the 2-year-old child of the complainant was in the backseat at the time.”
But Arlia said the video clearly shows Braszczok didn’t participate in the eventual attack on Lien and was nowhere near him.
“The allegation is that he struck the rear portion hatchback window, which has a gaping hole already in it; it’s already destroyed,” Arlia told reporters. “Under the law, it’s a fatal flaw. You can’t break what’s already broken.”
The encounter, which was captured on video and posted to YouTube, began when one of the bikers is seen cutting in front of Lien’s Range Rover on the Henry Hudson Parkway. He then slows down, forcing the SUV to bump his motorcycle’s rear tire.
Watch The Full Video Below: WARNING — GRAPHIC IMAGES
The video then shows riders swarming around the SUV. 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, takes off, running over biker Edwin Mieses Jr. Lien’s wife said they had no other choice but to flee.
Mieses, of Lawrence, Mass., broke his legs and suffered spine injuries that will leave him paralyzed, his family has said.
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.
Braszczok, a married father of two, has worked in the NYPD’s intelligence division, quietly infiltrating and investigating. His lawyer said he has served “valiantly.”
The detective was stripped of his gun and badge after internal affairs detectives discovered he was present for at least part of the encounter.
He initially told authorities and his union that he left without intervening, in part because of his role as an undercover officer.
Also charged is 32-year-old Clint Caldwell. He was arraigned Wednesday on charges of assault and gang assault. Police said Caldwell pulled Lien from the SUV.
Caldwell’s attorney said his prosecutors were mistaking client for another biker.
On Tuesday, 29-year-old Craig Wright was arraigned on charges of gang assault and unlawful imprisonment.
Turino said Wright punched 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.
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 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.
Lien has not been charged with any crime.
Check Out These Other Stories From CBSNewYork.com:
- NYC Council Eyes Easing Punishments For Public Urination, Litter
- Long Island Expressway Crash Leaves 1 Dead, Another Hurt In Old Westbury
- ‘Waitress’ Musical Offers Pies And Tickets In Touring ‘Treat Truck’
- ‘This Is Who I Am:’ Trevor Noah Talks Daily Show, Politics, And What He’s Learned From Jon Stewart
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)