DA: NYPD sergeant punched 2 men who got nasty with police
A New York City police sergeant was charged Thursday with beating two handcuffed men after they lashed out at police — one spitting at officers, the other using racial slurs — in separate incidents in the last two years.
Sgt. Phillip Wong, a supervisor in the bureau that patrols the city’s transit system, was caught on body-worn and security cameras punching a 48-year-old man in the face in a Harlem holding cell in October 2019 after the man kicked the cell door and spat at officers, prosecutors said. The man required stitches for a cut above his right eye, prosecutors said.
Six months later, prosecutors said, Wong slugged a 35-year-old man in the side of the face, knelt on his back and bounced several times after the man kicked Wong and taunted him with anti-Asian slurs during an arrest at a Manhattan subway station. The man was taken to a hospital, but doctors didn’t find any physical injuries, prosecutors said.
The confrontation, a month before George Floyd’s death from a Minneapolis police officer behaving in a similar fashion for more than eight minutes, was also captured on multiple body-worn and security cameras.
Wong, 37, pleaded not guilty Thursday to misdemeanor assault and attempted assault charges. The NYPD said it has suspended Wong without pay. He has been with the department more than 15 years. He is due back in court on Oct. 18.
At Wong’s arraignment, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said that the sergeant “grossly violated his training and the law” and that the conduct of the two men he’s accused of punching “did not justify these violent responses.”
A message seeking comment was left with the union representing NYPD sergeants. Wong’s lawyer, Andrew Quinn, told WCBS-TV that the sergeant was reacting in the April 2020 incident to the man’s anti-Asian vitriol.
“People in this city feel it’s perfectly in their jurisdiction and right to simply call a cop whatever they want, and they are right, First Amendment protects free speech,” Quinn told the television station. “But at some point somebody has got to start to realize that cops are not getting paid enough to have racial and ethnic slurs hurled in their faces every single time they step out of a police car.”
In the first incident, Wong pushed past two officers to gain access to the 48-year-old detainee, reopening the holding cell and punching him in the face after the man kicked the cell door and spat at the officers, prosecutors said.
In the second incident, in April 2020, Wong and an officer he was supervising took the 35-year-old man to the ground of an Upper West Side subway station after that man kicked Wong and yelled anti-Asian slurs while under arrest for punching a passenger, prosecutors said.
As Wong knelt on the man’s back, the man shouted “I can’t breathe.” Wong responded, “I don’t give a (expletive) if you can breathe or not,” and then punched the man in the side of the face, prosecutors said.
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