NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A man shot in the mouth by an off-duty NYPD officer in East New York, Brooklyn is speaking out for the first time.
Just a few days ago, that former officer was in court to face charges.
Last August, 21-year-old Thavone Santana was shot in the face.
“Right here. It knocked my teeth out, exploded. Broke my jaw into pieces. They had to wire it back,” Santana said.
Surrounded by family and his attorney Monday, he described that moment.
“I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t move. Mouth full of blood, I couldn’t talk,” he said.
On Friday, the man holding the gun, former NYPD Sergeant Ritchard Balke, pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of tampering with evidence. The 40-year-old was off duty when he shot Santana. Blake claimed he acted in self defense and believed Santana was trying to rob him.
Sources tell CBS2 the men knew each other and had gotten into an argument hours earlier over a woman.
A grand jury cleared Blake on all counts for the shooting, determining Blake was justified because Santana had been acting menacingly and following Blake while keeping his hand in a pocket as if holding a weapon.
After the shooting, prosecutors say Blake called 911, then, while still on the phone, went through Santana’s pockets, looking for a weapon that wasn’t there.
Prosecutors allege the video shows Blake pull a knife from his own pocket, drop it on the ground next to Santan, then notice the surveillance camera pointed directly at him, and immediately pick the knife back up.
Blake was fired from the NYPD. After court Friday, his lawyer spoke.
“When they hear my client’s side of the story at the jury trial, I’m confident he’ll be exonerated of all charges,” said attorney Abe George.
Santana and his family think Blake should be facing harsher charges.
“My child, for his birthday, could not enjoy his birthday cake,” said Arrie Spencer, Santana’s mother. “Because he couldn’t swallow properly, he couldn’t eat properly. My son has to eat through a tube.”
One thing the family would not speak about: What was said in the moments leading up to the shooting.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” Santana said.
As for Blake, he was released and will be back in court in April.