New Videos Contradict NYPD Account Of Lead-Up To Times Square Attack On Cops

Police said Yohenry Brito was disobeying a lawful order to disperse when an officer tried to arrest him, triggering a melee with nearly a dozen men. But footage released today shows he was walking away.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 08: Mayor Eric Adams speaks during a press conference at the office of the District Attorneys on February 08, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 08: Mayor Eric Adams speaks during a press conference at the office of the District Attorneys on February 08, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

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Newly released video from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg appears to conflict with the police account of an interaction with a group of migrants that quickly escalated into a melee that triggered nationwide outrage.

The DA released the footage three hours after a press conference on Thursday where Bragg announced six new indictments in the Jan. 27 attack. NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny had said the attack began when officers asked a group of men blocking the sidewalk outside a West 42nd Street migrants shelter to disperse.

“Everybody disperses except for Mr. Brito,” Kenny said, referring to 24-year-old Yohenry Brito, who was indicted earlier in the week and is being held on Rikers Island on $15,000 bail. “He turned around and got confrontational with the police officers. He refused a lawful order.”

But the newly released video footage appears to directly conflict with that account.

Officer body camera videos and surveillance footage show Brito was originally standing with the other men around a concrete traffic bollard at the edge of the sidewalk outside of a migrant shelter as people walked by them unhindered.

A police officer then approaches Brito, swatting his jacket with his hand and saying “Let’s go. Vamos.” Brito, backing away from the officer, responds in Spanish: “Don’t touch, don’t touch me.” The officers order the men to “Go to West Four One.”

As the men start walking away, some of them chant lyrics from a song in Spanish by the Puerto Rican rapper Hades 66. The surveillance footage shows Brito walking down the sidewalk away from the police officers, pushing a baby carriage that appears to be holding his possessions.

“He looks like ugly Betty,” Brito says in Spanish while walking away, referring to the Colombian telenovela later remade for American television.

Moments later, one of the officers grabs Brito by the collar and rams him up against the wall of the adjacent building. As Brito struggles with the officer, the group of men who had been walking away return and start yelling at the police. After Brito tumbles to the ground, an officer on top of him, several other men take turns kicking the officers and grabbing them in an attempt to free Brito.

That melee seized nationwide attention, sparking calls from Republican lawmakers and even Mayor Eric Adams to walk back New York City’s sanctuary city laws. Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul said of the men in the video that the authorities should “get them all and send them back.”

The district attorney’s office declined to provide additional comment on the videos, and a spokesperson for the NYPD didn’t return a request for comment.

Robert Gangi, the director of the Police Reform Organizing Project, said the more complete picture of the encounter shown on the videos raised questions about why the police had approached the men in the first place, and then physically accosted Brito as he was walking away.

“Why were the cops giving them a hard time, when they didn’t seem to be doing anything that calls for that?” he wondered. “It does not justify the men throwing them on the ground and kicking them. But it seriously calls into question the behavior of these cops.”

The sequence of events captured on the videos is “not what was portrayed or presented when we first got the story,” Gangi said.

‘Thorough Investigation’

Up until Thursday, police had released only an edited, 45-second clip of the encounter, which starts with an initial scene where the group of men are walking away from the police officers, then cuts to a 30-second clip of the melee, where around a dozen men land kicks on the struggling officers, while others try to pry them off of Brito.

Within two hours of the Jan. 27 incident, police arrested four men ranging in age from 19 to 24, charging them with assault on a police officer and gang assault. The NYPD arrested a fifth man two days later and two more men two days after that.

Bragg’s office has been under immense public pressure to move swiftly on the case, with NYPD officials making the rounds on cable news amid a drum beat of tabloid coverage referring to the men as “brutes” and members of a “wolfpack,.”

As the men were released from custody without bail last week, video footage of some waving middle fingers at news photographers stoked more furor about what one Fox News host called their “remorseless, brazen, smug” behavior.

At the time Bragg’s office defended the decision not to request bail, saying prosecutors were still working to be certain they had charged the right men.

“It is paramount that we conclusively ID each defendant and specify each defendant’s role in the incident,” Assistant District Attorney Zachary Kotin told a judge at the Jan. 31 arraignment of 22-year-old Jhoan Boada, who was released without bail.

On Thursday, Bragg announced five of the people initially arrested last week had been indicted for their involvement in the attack, along with another two people who the office had since identified but did not name.

The DA said the office is now confident it has identified people whose actions warranted criminal charges, though some of those involved played a more tangential role to the fight than initially charged with, while others who pummeled officers with kicks remain at large

“The only thing worse in failing to bring perpetrators to justice, would be to ensnare innocent people in the criminal justice system,” Bragg said. “Based on our thorough investigation I stand here today confident that we have identified the roles of every person who moved the law and participated in this heinous attack.”

Brito was indicted earlier in the week on second degree assault, obstructing governmental administration, tampering and hindering prosecution and is being held on Rikers. Kelvin Servita Arocha, 19, who is alleged to have kicked a police radio, was charged with second degree assault.

“In addition to a principal liability under our code we also have accessory liability for those who aid and assist,” Bragg said, explaining the assault charges against Arocha, though he had not made “physical contact with the officers.”

Yorman Reveron, 24, who prosecutors say pushed the officers to the ground, was charged with second degree assault and obstructing governmental administration. Redmond Haskins, a spokesperson for the Legal Aid Society, which is representing Reveron, said he urged the “public to reserve judgment while we conduct our investigation into this case.”

Darwin Andres Gomez-Izquiel, 19, was charged with second degree assault and obstructing governmental administration, allegedly grabbed and kicked an officer.

Attorneys for Gomez-Izquiel, Arocha, and Brito didn’t return requests for comment immediately.

Questions Remain

Another man caught up in the frenzy and initially charged with assault is no longer being charged with assault at all, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Wilson Juarez, 21, was indicted on tampering with physical evidence and hindering prosecution. Bragg said Juarez was seen on camera wearing a gray jacket watching the fight from several yards away. Later, another man implicated in the attack was later seen wearing his jacket, implying he’d switched jackets to help them evade arrest.

Adrienne Edwards, Juarez’s attorney, said over the past two weeks, her client had had his face splashed across the world for something he was no longer accused of doing.

“Your name and picture and your likeness was all over in conjunction with an assault on a police officer. And then later it comes out that you didn’t actually assault the police officer. Once the stuff is out there in the media outlet and that information goes out. It’s hard to bring that back,” she said. “Society has taken their own opinion.”

Two other indicted men hadn’t had their names or the charges against them released while officials attempted to apprehend them. Of those, just one of the men, Brito, was in custody as of Thursday and the other named suspects were expected to appear at their upcoming court dates.

Bragg said his office is still seeking information about four other men seen on the videos kicking the officers, who have yet to be identified.

Questions remain about the involvement of another one of the men initially brought in by the NYPD in connection with the incident: Jhoan Boada, 22, was not indicted this week on any charges, though he had been charged with assaulting an officer and released on his own recognizance.

Douglas Cohen, a spokesperson for the district attorney, said the office was “still investigating his role” in the incident.

Diana Riojas contributed reporting.

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