Police Commissioner James O’Neill Friday all but cleared two cops caught on video standing nearby while a teen who had been attacked with a machete bled to death.
O’Neill said the officers made what he felt was the correct decision — not interrupting the good Samaritan applying pressure to the mortal wounds suffered by 15-year-old Lesandro (Junior) Guzman-Feliz. Others in the video also appear to be trying to help.
“I’m not looking to turn two cops into scapegoats,” O’Neill said. “Our focus has to be on the people that did this murder — not on the two cops that stopped and tried to help Lesandro.”
Eight suspects, most of them in their early 20s, have been charged in his murder.
The actions of the officers, who remain on full duty, are still the subject of an internal review, which O’Neill suggested was prompted by media inquiries following the posting of the video on social media.
The clip shows Lesandro on the ground, bleeding profusely after he stumbled to St. Barnabas Hospital moments after he was dragged out of a bodega and attacked in an apparent case of mistaken identity last week.
O’Neill said a guard called for help and that the officers, leaving the hospital after an unrelated incident, got out of their car and blocked the driveway so Lesandro could be tended to. Seventy-five seconds later, O’Neill said, an ambulance arrived.
“We get paid to help people,” O’Neill said. “But if somebody’s applying direct pressure on a wound already … I don’t want to get too graphic here, but you don’t want to removed that pressure.”
The officers, he said, were “engaged” and “did their best.”
The video was “very difficult to watch,” O’Neill said.