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March 20, 2019

NYC’s top cop defends officers who beat men with batons in Washington Heights

January 11, 2019

Two men have been arrested following a wild melee between baton-wielding cops and civilians caught on video Tuesday in Washington Heights.

The city’s top cop strongly defended the actions of two of his officers who repeatedly hammered two men with batons outside a Washington Heights subway station.

“There is a lot more to the story,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said Friday of a cellphone video of NYPD cops tussling with Aaron Grissom, 36, and Sidney Williams, 37, outside the W. 169th St. and Broadway stop.

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“Of course, when you see the initial video, there’s a lot of questions that you’re asking and a lot of questions that I was asking,” O’Neill told Joe Piscopo on his AM 970 morning show. These two cops because they care about what they do as all NYPD cops do that day. They were approached and they were told that there were people on the stairway harassing passengers and they did their job. They did what they were supposed to do.”

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, pictured Jan. 3 in Brooklyn, defended the actions of the NYPD members involved in the incident. (Byron Smith for New York Daily News)

The cops involved in the incident Tuesday — Police Officers Jeffrey Mota and Bramlin Rosa — were on a fixed post at the 168th St. and Broadway station responding to community concerns about vagrants when they heard about Grissom and Williams bothering people on stairs leading to the station.

O’Neill said officers told Grissom and Williams to leave the station.

“One of the cops made a decision to arrest Mr. Grissom and Mr. Williams and Grissom decided he was going to punch a cop and you can’t punch a cop,” he explained. “You can’t fight a cop and you can’t resist arrest.”

O’Neill noted that Grissom’s criminal record includes arrests for prior clashes with police and said he “makes his living” from suing the Police Department. “If we’re going to ask our cops to do that, we have to back them up,” he said. “We’re looking for the DA to work to indict Grissom. We’re looking for the DA to charge Williams and to request bail. It’s not just about the two cops, it’s about all New York City cops and keeping them safe and it’s about quite frankly keeping all New Yorkers safe.”

The Internal Affairs Bureau is looking into the whether the baton strikes were within department guidelines.

“Keep in mind these two subjects attacked our police officers and a baton is a tool that they use,” he said. “We’re working with the DA’s office to make sure everything was done properly but you know what I’m seeing right now and this is a preliminary result is that these cops did exactly what we asked them to do.”

The Manhattan district attorney will defer charges against Williams while seeking assault charges against his running buddy — and possible relative — Grissom.

“Our Office is conducting a full, fair, and independent investigation into the alleged offenses for which Mr. Grissom and Mr. Williams were arrested,” said Danny Frost, a spokesman for the Manhattan District Attorney. “We are separately conducting a full, fair, and independent investigation into the force used by Officers during this encounter. With regard to Mr. Williams, our Office does not currently have probable cause to believe that this defendant committed a crime. Accordingly, we are deferring a charging decision as to Mr. Williams pending the completion of this investigation.”

At Grissom’s arraignment Thursday night in Manhattan Criminal Court, Judge Althea Drysdale granted the DA’s request that he be released without bail, with a order of protection barring him from entering the subway station. He is charged with assault, attempted assault, and resisting arrest.

Lawyer Sanford Rubenstein defended his clients. “While admitting In his comments ‘police are not perfect’ and ‘they make mistakes,’ I suggest the excessive force used by police shown in the video is more than a simple mistake,” he said. “I hope the police commissioner’s comments are not construed to mean the use of excessive force by members of the NYPD is acceptable.”

Washington Heights beat down suspect Sydney Williams is pictured covered up while exiting Manhattan Criminal Court following his arraignment late Thursday night.
Washington Heights beat down suspect Sydney Williams is pictured covered up while exiting Manhattan Criminal Court following his arraignment late Thursday night. (Sam Costanza for New York Daily News)

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