MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Nassau County police officer admitted on the witness stand Monday that he repeatedly struck a man during a traffic stop but that the use of force was justified.

Officer Vincent LoGiudice is charged with one felony count and one misdemeanor count of assault related to the April 2014 incident in Westbury that was captured on video.

LoGiudice testified that he punched Kyle Howell, now 21, and that when the hand strikes were not effective, he kneed him, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported. The officer added that during the altercation, Howell hit him a number of times.

Howell, who was struck 18 times, testified last week that he was pulled over for a cracked windshield. During the stop, when the officers were near their cruiser, he leaned over, took a bag of marijuana out of the glove compartment and tried to open it to dump it out onto the street, he said. That is when LoGiudice began punching and kneeing him, Howell testified.

William Petrillo, the officer’s attorney, says that the suspect was perceived as a threat to the officer because of prior encounters with him. The defense said it is not a case of police brutality, instead it was a potentially life-or-death situation for the officer.

Howell suffered a broken nose and eye socket in the incident.

He was arrested on assault, resisting arrest and drug charges after he allegedly refused to comply with instructions to provide identification. Those charges were later dropped.

LoGiudice has waived his right to a jury trial, and a judge will decide whether or not he’s guilty of police brutality.

The officer faces a maximum of seven years in prison.


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