From [HERE] and [HERE] The Legal Aid Society on Monday called on Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark to drop criminal charges filed against a woman who lost an eye during what she says was an unjustified beating by an NYPD officer.
Johanna Pagan-Alomar, 45, of the Bronx, is charged with assault, harassment, and obstructing government administration for allegedly accosting Officer Theresa Lustica from behind while Lustica’s partner was arresting Pagan’s friend, Andy Rodriguez, 35, for heroin possession on June 7.
The confrontation began when Pagan-Alomar, a mother of two, saw Lustica and her partner, Officer Konti Markvukaj, arresting her friend, Andy Rodriguez, 35, near East Burnside and Jerome Aves. on June 7.
Pagan-Alomar says she asked Lustica what Rodriguez had done wrong and that Lustica responded with a string of obscenities and held up the heroin she allegedly found on Rodriguez. In the video the cop appears to wave it in her face.
“Back up. Back up,” Lustica said, according to court papers.
According to the criminal complaint, Pagan-Alomar ignored Lustica’s orders and came up on Lustica as the cop and her partner moved to take Rodriguez to their partrol car and “pushed her forward causing her to lose her balance.”
Video obtained by The News shows no such shove. It instead appears that Alomar-Pagan may have tapped Lustica on the back -- at which point the cop spun around and went at Alomar-Pagan, who put up her hands.
Pagan-Alomar said she never touched Lustica and that she only came up behind her to complain about how Lustica had responded to her question.
“She was cursing me,” Pagan-Alomar said. “And I said, ‘Why are you disrespecting me? I’m not disrespecting you.’” That set Lustica off, Pagan-Alomar says.
Pagan-Alomar says that Lustica threw her to the ground and straddled her, using her legs to hold down her arms. The officer then repeatedly punched her in the face with her right fist -- as she held her handcuff key between the fingers of the hand she used to throw the punches, Pagan-Alomar says. The cop punched her multiple times in the face-while the key to her handcuffs was wedged between her knuckles. She says the key was allegedly what caused the severe damage to Pagan-Alomar’s left eye.
A witness later located by an investigator for her criminal lawyer said the cop attacked Pagan-Alomar for about 45 seconds.
By that point, Pagan-Alomar said, her left eye was hanging out of the socket. That didn’t stop Lustica from arresting her and loading her into her police car.
At the 46th Precinct stationhouse, a captain asked why EMS hadn’t been called, and ordered the partners to get Pagan-Alomar to the hospital right away, Pagan-Alomar says.
The Daily News obtained partial video of the encounter, which you can see here. Pagan-Alomar appears to reach toward Officer Lustica, but in the video, it is unclear whether she touched the officer because the women move out of the frame.
The blows knocked Pagan’s left eye from its socket and broke her orbital bone, her lawyers said. Doctors removed the eye three months later.
Pagan-Alomar says Officer Markvukaj did not intervene and that the violence only ceased when a third officer approached and told Officer Lustica to get off of her. Pagan-Alomar was placed under arrest. She says the officers took her back to the precinct and only later was she taken to a hospital for treatment.
Pagan-Alomar told the Daily News that Officer Lustica apologized after placing her under arrest, reportedly saying, “Forgive me. I didn’t want to do this to you.” Pagan-Alomar says while at the hospital, police had her sign a form that voided her complaint against the officers, but says she was on painkillers at the time and does not actually recall signing the form or realizing what it was.
A surveillance camera in the area captured part of the incident on video. It shows Pagan-Alomar, a mother of two, exchanging words with officers before appearing to reach toward Lustica’s back.
Lustica then wheels around and engages Pagan near the intersection of East Burnside Avenue and Jerome Avenue.
“This is one of the most egregious acts of brutality that I have been involved with," her civil lawyer, Michael Braverman, told the Daily News.
The NYPD says it cleared Lustica after an internal probe.
“For the rest of her life, Ms. Pagan-Alomar will be reminded daily of that morning in June when Officer Lustica attacked her so viciously that she lost her left eye,” her criminal attorney, Nicolas Schumann-Ortega of The Legal Aid Society’s Bronx Criminal Defense Practice, told Bronx Justice News. “It is shameful that the Bronx District Attorney continues to drag this case on, and that Officer Lustica continues to walk the beat endangering the people of this community she supposedly serves. In the interest of justice, this case must be dismissed immediately, and Officer Lustica must be fired and charged criminally for this horrific assault.”
In a letter sent to Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark Monday, Schumann-Ortega called on Clark to drop the charges against Pagan.
“Given the severity of Ms. Pagan’s life-altering injuries, we are asking that your office immediately dismiss the charges against her, and to Charge Officer Lustica criminally for this horrific assault,” the attorney wrote.
Although the video shows that Alomar barely touched or never touched the officer the NYPD on Monday again pushed back against Pagan’s version of events.
Sergeant Jessica McRorie, a department spokesperson, said Pagan “physically accosted a uniformed police officer, from behind, without provocation, while the officer was effecting an arrest for heroin possession. The Internal Affairs Bureau conducted an investigation and determined that the officer’s actions were appropriate under the circumstances and neither excessive nor unnecessary.”