NEW YORK – Authorities said Wednesday that three homeless men who fought a New York City police officer on a subway platform will face criminal prosecution after the video of the encounter resulted in millions of views online.
Two of the men will be charged with the riot and obstructing governmental administration, police said, while a third man faces counts in addition to attempted sexual assault, attempted criminal possession of a weapon and menacing. Two of the three men were taken into custody Wednesday. The third remained at large.
Two other men in the video, which seemed to be trying to break up the scuffle, are not confronted with costs.
The charges stem from an incident in which a group of homeless men refused a police officer’s orders to “step back.”
Images of the encounter viewed more than 4.75 million times on social media, was an Officer of Syed Ali with a stick and kicking at the men, who appeared to be drunk, if they come at him one at a time on Sunday night. Ali, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, never drew his gun.
The police took the men the next day for sleeping on the station floor, but not for the twist. The Manhattan District Attorney’s dropped that event, the mention of a policy for reducing the persecution of types of low-level violations.
But as the video got more and more attention, the decision not to prosecute the case drew criticism of Ali union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, who said that the men “should be held accountable for their actions.” The DA’s office said prosecutors who declined to move forward on the sleep-related offences were not aware the men were involved in an altercation with the officer.
“There is no telling how much damage these mopes would have done to that brave police officer had he not been equipped to go,” union president Patrick Lynch said in a statement.
One of the homeless men tumbled off the platform in the chaos and had to be pulled from the tracks. He and the others were taken to a hospital for treatment.
The men were not arrested until the next morning, when the police saw them back at the East Broadway station and cited them for sleeping on the floor.
“When people are arrested for attacking officers, we prosecute them,” said Danny Frost, a spokesman for the DA’s office. “These people were not arrested for attacking an officer, they were arrested for sleeping on the floor of a metro station — a rules violation, not a crime.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio praised Ali “extraordinary professionalism and courage.” He tweeted Tuesday that “the attacks of our men and women in uniform will never be tolerated.”