Back in September an emotionally disturbed man walked out into Times Square traffic causing a disturbance by throwing himself in front of cars. The police responded by trying to shoot him (because of course that is what you do when someone is displaying unbalanced behavior) and instead shot the bystanders at the scene.
Police officers arrived and tried to corral Mr. Broadnax, a 250-pound man. When he reached into his pants pocket, two officers, who, the police said, thought he was pulling a gun, opened fire, missing Mr. Broadnax, but hitting two nearby women. Finally, a police sergeant knocked Mr. Broadnax down with a Taser.
(Because of course any movement by anyone is the pulling of a gun).
Now he is being charged with felony assault for the cops' shooting and injuring innocent bystanders.
This is where police decided to open fire on unarmed man
Initially Mr. Broadnax was arrested on misdemeanor charges of menacing, drug possession and resisting arrest. But the Manhattan district attorney’s office persuaded a grand jury to charge Mr. Broadnax with assault, a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years. Specifically, the nine-count indictment unsealed on Wednesday said Mr. Broadnax “recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death.”
“The defendant is the one that created the situation that injured innocent bystanders,” said an assistant district attorney, Shannon Lucey.
One of the victims of Mr. Broadnax's "assault" has spoken out against the charges.
Mariann Wang, a lawyer representing Sahar Khoshakhlagh, one of the women who was wounded, said the district attorney should be pursuing charges against the two officers who fired their weapons in a crowd, not against Mr. Broadnax. “It’s an incredibly unfortunate use of prosecutorial discretion to be prosecuting a man who didn’t even injure my client,” she said. “It’s the police who injured my client.”
The incident brings to mind a previous
shooting incident near the Empire State Building where bystanders were shot. Nine bystanders were injured during a police shooting by police bullets, ricochets and fragments when two officers fired at a man suspected of gunning down a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building, calling into question the police's ability to handle such situations (and their marksmanship), and endangering the lives of bystanders who were in little to no danger before the police showed up.
In that incident, officers fired a total of 16 shots outside one of the world's most popular tourist attractions as a large crowd watched. While an investigation later determined the suspect, who was killed in the incident, had 10 bullet holes in him, many nearby were still wounded. The NYPD and Mayor Michael Bloomberg fiercely defended the officers' actions at the time.
As Salon notes
, more than half the people shot at by police have mental health problems. The NYPD seems to have no training in dealing with and handling these types of incidents reasonably.
As reported here, an investigation last year by the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram found that over half of people shot by police in the U.S. suffer from mental illness. The Times Square incident is no exception. As the Times reported, “after his arrest, Mr. Broadnax was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where he told a detective that ‘he was talking to dead relatives in his head and that he tried throwing himself in front of cars to kill himself.’” Luckily, then, New York’s finest were there to open fire.
We know the police in New York already have free rein to shoot people they think might be criminals or might be pulling guns. Now they have free rein not only on so-called suspected criminals, but unfortunate people who happen to make the mistake of being anywhere near their line of fire. This is a new low in justifying their behavior by the judiciary. Especially considering the daily crime taking place about 50 blocks south of Times Square, on a daily basis.