|Undercover NYPD Cop Charged in SUV Assault|
|By COLLEEN CURRY, MARK CRUDELE and AARON KATERSKY (@aaronkatersky)||Oct 8, 2013, 2:48 PM|
An undercover New York police officer was among three people charged today in connection with the case of an SUV driver swarmed and attacked by motorcyclists, police said.
Det. Wojciech Braszczok, 32, was charged with riot and criminal mischief, police said. He can be seen on a video taken at the scene of the attack bashing a rear window of the SUV after a high-speed chase, law enforcement sources told ABC News.
The undercover cop initially told his superiors days after the attack that he was at the scene of the assault and did not stop it for fear of blowing his cover, police said after he came forward. But sources said he was "not truthful" about his involvement during earlier interviews.
The determining factor in moving forward with charges was newly acquired video that showed he vandalized the victim's SUV by breaking the rear hatchback window, an act that contradicted his prior accounts, a law enforcement source said.
After announcing the charges against Braszczok, police added that another man, Clint Caldwell, 32, of Brooklyn, was charged with gang assault, assault and criminal mischief.
Four other motorcyclists have been charged in connection with the incident, during which a group of 20 to 30 bikers surrounded SUV driver Alexian Lien on Manhattan's West Side Highway on Sept. 29, authorities said.
Lien, who was driving on the highway with his wife and 2-year-old daughter on an outing to celebrate the couple's wedding anniversary, tapped the back of a motorcycle that cut in front of him and slowed down, police said. The rest of the bikers then closed in on him, prompting Lien to speed off, hitting three bikers as he accelerated away from the group, according to the NYPD.
Det. Braszczok is a 10-year veteran of the NYPD, according to a law enforcement source. He is an undercover detective who spent much of his police career in narcotics but recently transferred to another division.
Internal Affairs had been reviewing his load of former narcotics cases as charges against him were being contemplated, the source added.
Prosecutors planned to arrange his surrender over the next 48 hours but Internal Affairs investigators believed they had enough evidence to make the arrest and told his attorney to bring him in, according to the source. Additional charges were possible as the investigation continues.
"In the last few days, serious charges have been brought against several defendants in last Sunday's attack," said Erin Duggan, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance. "As we said from the beginning of the investigation, the NYPD and the district attorney's office are methodically scrutinizing the evidence to build the strongest possible cases in our continuing effort to hold accountable those responsible."
Much of the chase was caught on a helmet camera video that was then uploaded to the Internet. Police said they have used the video and images taken at the scene to identify suspects. Detectives have also obtained additional footage and photographs from others that have helped them piece together what went on, sources said.
Investigators believe that while Braszczok was one of three officers on the ride in the general area of the attack, he was the closest to the beating and the only to have a clear view of what was happening, a law enforcement source said. They believe another detective was further away from the attack and a third, an officer, was "in the way back" of the motorcycle pack.
The other two officers' conduct was being probed, but investigators said they were not expected to face criminal charges, the source added.
A grand jury is already hearing evidence in the assault cases that have been filed, and Lien is expected to make a video statement for prosecutors for the grand jury, authorities said.
Earlier today, Craig Wright, 29, was charged with assault for allegedly hitting and kicking Lien, authorities said.
According to court documents, Wright was part of a group of bikers who hit Lien through the window of his Range Rover, dragged him out of the SUV, and then beat Lien with their helmets and kicked and stomped on him while Lien was on the ground.
Wright pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is currently in jail and not expected to make bail, his attorney told ABC News.
Six people, including Wright, Caldwell and Braszczok, have now been charged for involvement in the Sept. 29 melee.
Wright was with a group of 20 to 30 motorcyclists who were riding on Manhattan's West Side Highway that day, police said. The bikers tried to block off the road to do tricks, cops said, and they surrounded the Range Rover and then slowed down.
Three other bikers have been charged in connection with the case: Christopher Cruz, who allegedly cut Lien off in traffic, sparking the entire incident; Reginald Chance; and Robert Sims.
Wright was identified in video and photos taken at the scene, cops said. He was seen wearing a leather jacket and a black helmet with spikes on it, police said, noting Wright confirmed to authorities that the photos depicted him.
ABC News' Josh Margolin and Michael S. James contributed to this report.