NEW YORK (AP) — An undercover police detective was arrested as fallout from a burst of motorcyclist mayhem reached a new level, with investigators saying the officer was shown on video hitting and kicking an SUV before bikers attacked its driver.
Wojciech Braszczok, who was off-duty when he joined a motorcycle rally that spiraled into violence, was expected to be arraigned Wednesday. He surrendered Tuesday to face riot and criminal mischief charges, New York Police Department spokesman John McCarthy said.
There was no immediate response to phone messages left with Braszczok’s attorney, Phil Karasyk. He had previously said the 10-year NYPD veteran only witnessed other bikers attacking the vehicle.
But investigators discovered video evidence showing Braszczok punching an already damaged back window, then twice kicking the side of the SUV before leaving the scene, according to two people familiar with the case. The people weren’t authorized to discuss the inquiry and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
The arrest added to the complexities of the Sept. 29 episode, which authorities say began with a reckless motorcycle group ride on a Manhattan highway. Ultimately, one motorcyclist was run over, and the SUV driver was dragged from behind the wheel and beaten on a street.
Before Braszczok’s arrest, four other bikers were criminally charged. The latest was arraigned Tuesday on gang assault and other charges.
But late Tuesday, a fifth person, Clint Caldwell, was arrested on gang assault and other charges. A phone number for the 32-year-old wasn’t listed at the address provide by police and it wasn’t clear if he had an attorney.
“As we said from the beginning of the investigation, the NYPD and the district attorney’s office are methodically scrutinizing the evidence to build the strongest possible cases in our continuing effort to hold accountable those responsible,” said Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.
NYPD internal affairs investigators began looking into the undercover detective’s conduct because he didn’t report having been at the rally until three days later. The expectation that police officers will act if they see crimes isn’t the same for undercover officers.
The encounter, captured partly on a helmet-mounted-camera video that was posted online, began when about two dozen riders surrounded the Range Rover after it bumped a biker on the West Side Highway. Some riders dismounted and approached the SUV, and police said some bikers began damaging it.
SUV driver Alexian Lien took off, running over motorcyclist Edwin “Jay” Mieses Jr., of Lawrence, Mass. The impact broke Mieses’ legs and caused spinal injuries that may leave him paralyzed.
Lien’s wife has said he fled to protect her and their 2-year-old daughter. Lien hasn’t been charged with any crime.
The bikers pursued the SUV. After it ducked off the highway and got mired in street traffic, motorcyclists shattered the driver’s-side window, pulled Lien out and beat and kicked him, police and prosecutors said. Lien needed stitches.
The motorcyclist arraigned Tuesday, Craig Wright, punched Lien through the broken window and joined in stomping him on the street, Assistant District Attorney Samantha Turino said. A judge set Wright’s bail at $100,000.
Wright’s lawyer, Mitchell Elman, said they would fight the charges.
“There should be no rush to judgment,” Elman said.
According to the undercover detective’s account, he saw motorcyclists attacking the SUV but didn’t see anyone harm Lien, Karasyk said Monday. The detective also didn’t see the SUV hit Mieses, the attorney said.
Carrying no badge or gun, and aware that officers have sometimes been suspended or fired for blowing their covers, “he had no other option, so he drove away,” said Karasyk, who works with the detectives’ union.