Brooklyn, NY – Members of the NYPD’s 66th precinct in Boro Park have been formally punished following an internal department investigation into why officers ignored an alarming complaint in August about a perpetrator ho behaved obscenely in public. A week later, in another part of Boro Park, the same man pumped bullets into Shomrim volunteers who approached him.
In an email replying to a Hamodia inquiry, Deputy Inspector Kim Y. Royster, commanding officer of the NYPD’s public information division, wrote yesterday only that “the officers involved were disciplined.”
A follow-up inquiry seeking details about the findings of the probe, how many officers were disciplined, their rank, and how they were disciplined, went unanswered. Moments after Dep. Insp. Royster’s email was received, Hamodia was told she was unavailable. The call was not returned.
n the email, Dep. Insp. Royster did not specify if a belated report on the undocumented complaint has been or would be filed. She also did not reply to Hamodia’s request for permission to interview Dep. Insp. John Sprague, head of the 66th, who has not returned calls. Dep. Insp. Sprague oversaw the investigation about the omitted report.
According to a Boro Park woman who spoke to Hamodia, the man who shot four Shomrim members on Sept. 2 allegedly behaved in a criminally obscene manner in public a week earlier and then fled when Shomrim pursued him. Shomrim called police, and the woman gave officers a description of the man, the car he was driving, and the car’s license plate. But no report was filed. Shomrim members corroborate the woman’s story, now apparently backed by the NYPD.
In relation to the shooting on Sept. 2, David Flores, 33, is charged with assault in the first, second and third degrees; criminal possession and use of a firearm; reckless endangerment; and menacing. The wounded Shomrim members survived.
Flores, though, is not charged with the deranged behavior Mrs. Friedman says she and others she knows witnessed him commit on her street on Aug. 26. At the time of the shooting on Sept. 2, Flores was driving the same car he used earlier.
A spokesperson for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office yesterday did not know if, in light of the outcome of the NYPD investigation, new charges will be leveled against Flores, who was arrested on Sept. 2 at the scene of the shooting, 46th Street near 10th Avenue.
The case of volunteer patrol members gained citywide attention. The night of the shooting, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly visited the victims in the hospital and held a major press conference.
Despite the serious nature of the case, various elected officials and prominent community leaders have so far issued muted responses or remained silent. The mayor’s office did not respond to phone and email inquiries on the matter from Hamodia yesterday. Previously, City Hall referred inquiries to the NYPD.
After being informed that officers were disciplined for failing to document serious allegations about a suspect-turned-gunman, the city’s outspoken Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio, remarked through a spokesman, “We don’t have a comment on the story at this time.” Up until January, de Blasio was a City Councilman whose district included the spot where the shooting occurred.
Councilman Brad Lander, de Blasio’s successor in the district, declined comment. His chief of staff, Rachel Goodman, said Mr. Lander wants to first discuss the issue with Dep. Insp. Sprague at ameeting later this month.
Although members of Boro Park Shomrim have expressed anger over the omission of a report that could have led to the apprehension of a dangerous suspect, the organization’s leadership declined comment about the investigation’s conclusion yesterday. While the matter was being investigated, Boro Park Shomrim leader Simcha Bernath expressed confidence that Dep. Insp. Sprague would handle the matter properly, but would not comment further. Well-connected sources say many askanim don’t want to confront the issue out of fear that delicate community-police relations could be rocked, especially since Jewish observances require various city accommodations.
Councilman David Greenfield, who also represents a large portion of Boro Park, took a track similar to that of a number of prominent community figures — praising the police response.
“I commend Deputy Inspector Sprague for quickly and thoroughly investigating the matter and sending a clear message that the failure of an officer to file a police report will not be tolerated by him or the NYPD,” Mr. Greenfield wrote to Hamodia yesterday.
However, Mr. Greenfield’s office did not return a call asking if he knew any details about the discipline taken.
At a town hall meeting in his office during Chol Hamoed Sukkos, Councilman Greenfield presented Dep. Insp. Sprague with an award for dedicated service and leadership. He also questioned him about the then-ongoing investigation. Dep. Insp. Sprague replied that failure to file a report was unacceptable and he would take decisive action if such was determined.
Hamodia learned of the initial incident involving Flores, and of the lack of a police report, on Sept. 12. The NYPD told Hamodia that police had responded to the call at Mrs. Friedman’s home. On Sept. 16, the department acknowledged the precinct had no report on the incident and opened an official probe.
Hikind Takes Action
One critical voice has been State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, whose district includes Boro Park. Yesterday, he announced that he has established a special “police desk” in his district office to assist constituents who have registered a complaint with the 66th precinct and wish to ensure that a report concerning that complaint was actually filed.
Mr. Hikind told Hamodia that he receives a steady stream of constituent complaints of the precinct foregoing reports. He’s been verifying and tracking such cases for a while.
“I have great respect for the commanding officer of the 66th precinct and the NYPD in general,” Mr. Hikind said. “But there have been several instances where constituents have asked for my intervention in getting a report filed or an officer to take a complaint. The Flores incident is just one example where the system failed. There needs to be some kind of a back-up plan to make certain that vital information is being transmitted to and acted upon by the police. I am hopeful that my office will be that conduit.”
The motivation to step up his work in this area came “after I saw the reports in Hamodia that the [Sept. 2 shooting] might have been avoided if the police had acted correctly,” Mr. Hikind said.
He has been advocating for more foot patrols in the neighborhood.
“Sometimes when other communities have more problems they take away some of our police officers,” he charged. “In our community where there are so many children … I would love to see more walking officers on the street.”
Constituents of Mr. Hikind who wish to verify that a report was filed with the 66th precinct can contact Dov Cohen of his office, at 718-853-9616.
Mr. Hikind has discussed the situation with Dep. Insp. Sprague. “He and I talked about the whole thing from the Hamodia article. My instinct tells me that a lot of things are not being reported; they’re just not. We want to know about it because I’m going to do something about it.”