NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City police officer has been indicted on a misdemeanor assault charge after being seen on bystander video in 2021 repeatedly punching a man who appeared to be having a psychiatric crisis, leaving him unconscious with a broken nose, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Officer Juan Perez is charged with third-degree assault in connection with the confrontation, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office said.
“Police officers are often put in challenging situations, but they must use their training appropriately and treat the residents of New York City with respect,” Bragg said in a statement.
Perez pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday. His lawyer, James Kilduff, said by phone that Perez denies the assault allegation.
The NYPD said Wednesday evening that Perez is suspended without pay. The city police union referred questions to Kilduff.
Court documents released Wednesday identified the man who was punched by Perez as Borim Husenaj.
Perez and his partner responded to a report of a man acting erratically in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood on Nov. 10, 2021, according to court documents and witness statements. Perez took an alcohol bottle from Husenaj and began talking with him, authorities said.
In a rambling and disjointed narrative, Husenaj said he believed he was being subjected to “terrorist actions” because of his belief in God, evidence that he was having a psychiatric crisis, investigators said in court documents.
When Husenaj disobeyed orders to remain seated, Perez pushed Husenaj against a wall in an effort to handcuff him, but a struggle ensued when both fell to the ground, officials said. Perez's partner helped subdue Husenaj, authorities said.
“Perez then proceeded to rapidly punch the victim six times in the face, who was lying on the ground defenseless,” Bragg's statement said. “He was brought to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a broken nose and significant swelling.”
A bystander recorded the incident with a cellphone.
City records show Perez, an officer since 2006, has had nine complaints against him, including allegations involving physical force, but none were substantiated. Records also show he was disciplined for a 2014 off-duty threatening incident.