Bronx woman loses eye during a scuffle with an NYPD officer

PHOTO: A New York Police Department car is seen in Manhattan, New York, on Sept. 16, 2013.PlayGetty Images, FILE
WATCH Bronx woman loses eye during a scuffle with an NYPD officer

It’s been almost a year since Johanna Pagan-Alomar lost her left eye during an encounter with New York City police.

Pagan-Alomar is still fighting to get the criminal case against her dropped and convince prosecutors to bring charges against the police officer who she says assaulted her. She is also still waiting for a prosthetic eye.

In June 2018, prosecutors say, Pagan-Alomar attempted to intervene as two NYPD officers arrested her then-boyfriend on drug possession charges in the Mount Hope section of the Bronx. Pagan-Alomar told ABC News that she only questioned what officers Teresa Lustica and Konti Markvukaj were doing, and did not use physical force against them.

Prosecutors initially charged Pagan-Alomar with a single felony charge for assaulting an officer, but that has since been dismissed. Pagan-Alomar still faces misdemeanor charges and faces jail time if convicted, court records show. 

Schumann-Ortega wants the Bronx prosecutors to drop all the charges against his client and indict Lustica for felony assault. 

"I asked 'Why are you arresting my boyfriend?' I know my rights. I can ask," Pagan-Alomar said, in Spanish, as she recalled the incident with her attorney, Nicolas Schumann-Ortega, by her side. "She touched my face," Pagan-Alomar said of Lustica, who she denied touching. "I asked her 'Why'd you disrespect me like that?'"

Only the beginning of the incident was caught by surveillance video. The video shows Lustica placing an item in Pagan-Alomar's face before walking away with the handcuffed suspect. Pagan-Alomar is then seen raising her right hand as Lustica's back is turned before a scuffle ensued. It does not capture the moment that Pagan-Alomar said her eye was struck.

"The police officer attacked her, repeatedly punched her in the face, had a key with the handcuff in her hand," said Schumann-Ortega. "She gouged a woman's eye out."

A spokeswoman with the NYPD said the officers were making a lawful arrest for heroin possession. She also said that the department had conducted an internal investigation and found Lustica's actions were "appropriate under the circumstances and neither excessive nor unnecessary."

A law enforcement source said there was no evidence of the use of a handcuff key. 

Pagan-Alomar said she sat in the 46th Precinct with her left eye bulging out of the socket for two hours before she was finally given medical attention.

"So much pain, so much pain, so much pain," said Pagan-Alomar, as she remembered sitting in the precinct. 

"By that point, her eye was already infected," said Schumann-Ortega.

"She destroyed my life with what she did," said Pagan-Alomar, who is now disabled and unable to work. 

Prosecutors turned over more evidence for the pending assault charges on Monday that showed the injuries of Pagan-Alomar and Lustica.

A medical expert hired by The Legal Aid Society reviewed Pagan-Alomar’s medical records and concluded that Pagan-Alomar’s eye could have been saved had police brought her to the hospital immediately. 

Lustica allegedly received a busted lip during the brawl, according to a photograph obtained by ABC News. 

Pagan-Alomar hired a civil attorney and filed a lawsuit against the city and the officers in January seeking an unspecified amount for her injuries, court records show. 

"If this isn't excessive force, I don't know what is...this officer committed felony assault, why is Ms. Pagan being prosecuted and not the officer?" said Schumann-Ortega.

A spokeswoman with the Bronx District Attorney's Office said they've "repeatedly" tried to cooperate with the defense in order for an investigation with their Public Integrity Unit to commence.

Schumann-Ortega told ABC News he's at a stalemate with prosecutors even after handing over redacted copies of Pagan-Alomar's medical records.

Pagan-Alomar's next court date is June 6.