(Bloomberg) -- Seven people were indicted in last month’s attack on two police officers in New York City’s Times Square, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced, amid intense criticism of his decision earlier not to seek the detention of several suspects.
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Bragg made the announcement at a news conference Thursday where surveillance video from the New York Police Department showed several men kicking the officers and pulling them off a man the police had pinned to the ground. The video was taken at a melee in front of a migrant shelter on Jan. 27.
The DA said the video “sickened me and outraged me.” Despite the public backlash, though, he said he had worked methodically so as not to “ensnare innocent people.” In asking a grand jury to hand up the indictment, he said, he was “confident” his office had correctly identified the attackers.
Among the charges the defendants face are assault in the second degree and obstructing governmental administration.
Firestorm Over Release
Bragg has faced severe criticism for not seeking bail from all the men arrested in the incident, allowing most to be released on their own recognizance. In New York, assault on a police officer is a charge for which prosecutors can seek, and judges can order, that suspects be held until they post bail.
In a statement Thursday, Bragg referred to “rumors” that four of the defendants had left the city and were then taken into custody by federal authorities. On Tuesday, however, Homeland Security officials told the DA’s office that the four people they detained “were not affiliated with the New York City investigation,” according to the DA.
At the news conference, Bragg defended his initial decision not to seek detention, saying that to secure convictions, the suspects had to be conclusively identified.
New York Mayor Eric Adams joined Bragg at the conference in deploring the assault and called it a “despicable attack” on the “symbol of justice” that is an officer’s uniform and shield.
‘The American Dream’
The incident began when police approached a group of people who had gathered on West 42nd Street and asked them to move along, the district attorney’s office said. When some of them resisted, the officers tried to remove them from the center of the sidewalk, according to the DA.
The indictment comes amid mounting pressure over an influx of migrants across the US southern border and to cities around the country. It wasn’t clear from the news conference or the statement whether the defendants are migrants, but the mayor raised the issue.
Cautioning against bias, he noted that the “overwhelming number” of the more than 170,000 new migrants and asylum seekers in New York City are law-abiding and just “want to finish the next leg of their journey” in “pursuing the American Dream.”
“If the Bloods are doing something wrong in the neighborhood,” Adams said by analogy, referring to a street gang, “it’s not an indicator of all those who live in that neighborhood.”
In addition to the work of New York authorities, he said, the “federal government should do their job” on deportation where warranted.
At the center of the indictment is 24-year-old Yohenry Brito, who is accused of instigating the attack and wrestling with the officers. The encounter escalated as Brito allegedly struggled against the officers and others in the area began to grab and kick them, Bragg’s office said.
Brito has been charged with assault in the second degree, obstruction of governmental administration, tampering with physical evidence and hindering prosecution in the third degree, and has been held pending bail since Feb. 1, the DA’s office said.
A lawyer for Brito didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the charges.
The case is New York v. Brito, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).
--With assistance from Laura Nahmias.
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