03 April 2019

Not The Onion

An unarmed mentally ill man was shot at by police.  Some of the bullets missed and struck bystanders in the street.  The DA decided to charge the mentally ill man with first-degree assault because of the injuries to the bystanders.
Police later said that after a cat-and-mouse game, Broadnax had reached into his pants pocket and removed an object, briefly “pointing” it at the responding officers. They thought it was a gun, and fired three rounds. After the shots, and a tussle with cops, Broadnax was hit with a Taser and arrested.

When the dust settled, a few things became clear. First, Broadnax was unarmed; the object police had thought was a gun was, in fact, a wallet. Second, Broadnax seemed to be in the midst of a mental health crisis. He told investigators immediately after his arrest that he was having auditory hallucinations, hearing the “voices of his dead relatives.”

The third fact that emerged was that the officers who opened fire had missed their target. Broadnax was unscathed. The bullets meant for him had instead struck Khoshakhlagh and a second victim, 59-year-old Theodora Ray, who was getting dinner at a food cart on 42nd Street, as she did almost every night...

Then, near the end of October, Khoshakhlagh’s attorney got a phone call from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Prosecutors had changed their minds about the case: They now planned to prosecute Broadnax for the bullet wounds sustained by Khoshakhlagh and Ray. Under an unusual theory of law, the prosecution claimed Broadnax’s actions that night in Times Square were so irresponsible, it was as if he himself had pulled the trigger.

The top charge alone — assault in the first degree — was enough to land him in prison for the next twenty-five years...

As Binder says, when police are involved in incidents like this — high-profile and potentially embarrassing mishaps — there can be pressure to ensure that someone, anyone, catches an indictment. “It’s not surprising that Mr. Broadnax was charged,” Binder says. “This is something prosecutors do when police behave irresponsibly.
More details in a longread in The Village Voice.

Actually in The Onion:
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