NEW YORK CITY, NY — An emotionally-disturbed man caused a commotion by running in front of oncoming traffic near Times Square. Police tried to shoot him, but negligently shot two female bystanders. Now the suspect has been charged with “assault” due to the NYPD’s use of force. He faces up to 25 years in prison.
On the evening of September 14th, Glenn Broadnax, 35, of Brooklyn, was feeling suicidal and apparently wanted to get struck by a car and ran in front of traffic. He literally dove in front of a car at one point during the disturbance, but it did not hit him. A crowd began to watch in curiosity.
“He looked like he was on something,” said one witness.
After apparently being knocked down by a taxi, witness Kerri-Ann Nesbeth said, “He was very disoriented… It’s almost like he didn’t realize what had happened.”
NYPD arrived at the scene and attempted to apprehend him. Broadnax, in his disturbed state, did not comply with police. He continued to run around and evaded them. When he withdrew his his hands from his pockets, police assumed he had a gun and opened fire upon him. The 3 bullets fired by NYPD missed Broadnax and hit 2 women in the crowd behind him, including a woman leaning against her walker.
After the NYPD officers got done shooting innocent bystanders, a sergeant took Broadnax down with a taser and arrested him. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said the shooting was justified because the suspect withdrew his hand from his pocket in the shape of a gun and “simulated shooting.”
But witnesses expressed shock that the officers — both of them with 3 years or less experience — had opened fire.
“From what I saw, he had nothing in his arms that was a weapon,” said Nesbeth to the New York Times. “My reaction was like, ‘Wait, why are they shooting at him?'”
Both women were treated for their wounds and were released.
Broadnax did not have a history of mental illness but was allegedly suffering from depression and anxiety. It is not clear if he was on any mind-altering drugs (prescribed or otherwise). He allegedly was talking to dead relatives while attempting to get hit by cars, later explaining, “I had a mission to kill myself.” A psychiatrist concluded that he was competent enough to stand trial.
He was initially charged with menacing, obstructing governmental administration, riot, criminal possession of a controlled substance, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
But that wasn’t enough for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which ultimately persuaded a grand jury to charge Broadnax with assault on the bystanders shot by NYPD. On December 4th, a nine-count indictment was unsealed claiming that Broadnax “recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death.”
The assault charge is a felony carrying a maximum possible sentence of 25 years.
But this decision has upset at least one of the victims. “It’s an incredibly unfortunate use of prosecutorial discretion to be prosecuting a man who didn’t even injure my client,” said Mariann Wang, a lawyer representing Sahar Khoshakhlagh. “It’s the police who injured my client.”
But the individuals who pulled the trigger are evidently immune from their indiscretion. Not only are the NYPD officers seemingly avoiding public discipline, their names are still being allowed to remain anonymous, months after the shooting.
Explaining the anomaly, assistant district attorney Shannon Lucey explained, “The defendant is the one that created the situation that injured innocent bystanders.”
The logic of the district attorney opens the door for the possibilities of further misplaced prosecutions. Seemingly, anything short of police deliberately gunning down bystanders would be the fault of the civilian contact. Should an officer draw his weapon on someone during a traffic stop, or a stop & frisk encounter, anything the officer shoots can be blamed on the suspect because they “created the situation.”
Broadnax’s bad decisions have provided the government with more than enough opportunities to ruin his life, without cheapening the definition of “assault.” With the department’s remarkable penchant for shooting innocent bystanders — shooting 9 innocents in one incident at the Empire State Building last year — the city may be maneuvering to unload the monumental liability of the inept NYPD.
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