NEW YORK (AP) — An undercover police detective participating in a motorcycle rally that turned violent pounded on the rear window of an SUV while others attacked the driver through his window, according to a criminal complaint Wednesday charging him with gang assault.
Wojciech Braszczok was an "active participant" in the attack on Alexian Lien's car two weeks ago following a chase up Manhattan's West Side Highway, prosecutors said. He did nothing to stop it, didn't report it to his superiors for two days, and then when did, he lied about it, changing his story to say he saw the attack but didn't participate, said Assistant District Attorney Samantha Turino.
"That is clearly not the case," Turino said. Law enforcement officials have said video from the scene of the incident shows the undercover officer participating.
Braszczok, 32, who appeared with a long beard and a hooded sweatshirt, was also charged with assault and criminal mischief. His lawyer, John Arlia, said the video actually exculpates his client, who was at least 12 feet from the attack on Lien, a married father of a toddler whose family was in the car at the time.
"This particular video in question exonerates my client — it is an absolute overcharge," he said. The SUV's back window already had a "gaping, softball-sized hole" in it, he said.
Braszczok is expected to post the $150,000 bond set by the judge.
The detective was stripped of his gun and badge after internal affairs detectives discovered he was present for at least part of the melee during a periodic motorcycle rally. Police say it was touched off when a motorcyclist and Lien's SUV bumped. Video captured at the scene shows riders swarming around the SUV before the driver takes off, crushing a rider beneath the car. Biker Edwin Mieses Jr. broke his legs and suffered spine injuries that his family has said will leave him paralyzed.
The detective initially told authorities and his union that he left without intervening, in part because of his role as an undercover. Such officers rarely blow cover to intervene.
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. Ultimately, one motorcyclist was run over, and the SUV driver was dragged from behind the wheel and beaten on a street.
Lien's wife has said he fled to protect her and their 2-year-old daughter. Lien hasn't been charged with any crime.