NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New York City police officer has been detained in India on a weapons charge after authorities there discovered three bullets he accidentally packed in his luggage, police officials said Friday.
Officer Manny Encarnacion was arrested early last month while traveling in New Delhi, where he was visiting his wife. He’s been barred from leaving the country until the case is resolved, the officials said.
New York Police Department Deputy Chief Kim Royster said the department was working with the State Department to try to get the charges dropped so Encarnacion could return to the United States.
In a letter dated Friday, Rep. Peter King asked Secretary of State John Kerry to look into the situation. The New York Republican called the arrest “an excessive act by the Indian government” and suggested it was payback for last year’s arrest and strip-search of an Indian consular official for alleged visa fraud in New York.
“I have absolutely no doubt that this is blatant retaliation,” King told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott. “This is wrong.”
EXTRA: Read King’s Letter To Kerry (pdf)
King said if India has a grievance with the United States they shouldn’t be taking it out on a police officer who was on vacation in its country.
“They’re dealing with a person who they know is innocent,” King told 1010 WINS. “This is the type of thing we used to associate with the Soviet Union or a third world dictatorship, not what actually is the world’s largest democracy.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer agreed, telling CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer, “I think the Indian government is making a huge mistake to use a veteran and an active NYPD officer as a pawn in their game. I think their behavior is sort of juvenile.”
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said she was aware of the reports of the officer’s arrest but declined to comment on the specifics of the case because of privacy concerns.
Asked whether the United States is worried whether Americans are potential targets for retribution because of how the Indian diplomat was treated in New York, she responded, “I think we feel like we’ve moved past this and hope the Indians have as well. India is a very close partner.”
The Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was charged with lying on a visa application for her nanny. The feds claimed she promised to pay the nanny $4,500 a month, when she actually paid the equivalent of $3.31 an hour, Kramer reported.
“What they did is childish. It’s almost tit for tat, but it’s done in a very, very wrong way. If there are ways India feels bad about what happened there are far more mature and reasonable ways to do it,” Sen. Schumer said.
Encarnacion, 49, joined the NYPD in 2004 and is assigned to a Harlem precinct.
The officer had gone to the department firing range before he left for India and put the bullets in a coat pocket, according to police. He packed the coat for the trip, forgetting the ammo was there, police officials said.
“Clearly this was an oversight, there was no evil intent here,” King said. “He didn’t have any weapon with him. There’s nothing he could’ve done with these bullets. He’s not going to kill anyone by throwing them at somebody.”
Sources told CBS 2’s Kramer that the Indian cop that found the bullets during a security check told Encarnacion, “You are a New York City policeman who likes to strip-search our diplomats.”
Encarnacion was charged with violating India’s Arms Act of 1959 and faces up to seven years in prison.
King said the Indian government should charge the officer with a technical violation or a fine.
“To treat this as anything serious, require him to stay in the country, to hold him for court proceedings, is absolutely wrong,” King said.
Encarnacion is out on bail while he awaits his next court date in India on April 17, U.S. officials said.
“India cannot be allowed to get away with this,” King said. “This is only gonna make relations worse between our two countries and India I don’t think wants to be in that position.”
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