Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said his office is preparing to present charges to a grand jury on Tuesday after two NYPD officers were attacked by a group that included migrants in Times Square last weekend.
In a statement issued one week after the attack, Bragg on Saturday also acknowledged some of those most responsible have not been identified or arrested. According to authorities, seven suspects have been arrested following the caught-on-camera beating of the two officers. Police think at least 13 people were involved.
“Our office continues to work with law enforcement to bring everyone responsible for these heinous attacks to justice. It is clear from video and other evidence that some of the most culpable individuals have not yet been identified or arrested, and we are working hand in hand with the NYPD to find and hold them accountable for their despicable acts,” Bragg’s weekend statement read, in part.
Bragg’s office emailed out the statement late Saturday along with a statement from the NYPD commissioner, which denounced the attackers and promised to work “tirelessly” alongside the DA to arrest all suspects involved in the attack.
The DA’s latest statement comes on the heels of an unusual Friday when Bragg dodged reporter questions before ultimately holding press conference hours later. In that briefing, he defended his decision to not request bail for several suspects, saying he’s proceeding cautiously to ensure the proper suspects are identified.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg declined early Friday afternoon to answer questions from NBC New York regarding the case and why several migrants accused of assaulting police were released without bond. He did not respond when asked if he thought not requesting bail was a mistake, instead walking past reporters without saying much at all.
Seemingly caught off-guard by the questions, Bragg offered only one answer: “We’ll speak in court.”
The DA was attending a law enforcement conference which reporters were invited to by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. She has made it clear she disagrees with the decision to let the suspects go free without bail, and has called for the attackers to be deported. Hochul said the problem was not about weak bail laws, but rather the failure to use the laws in place.
“All I know is that an assault on a police officer means you should be sitting in jail,” said Hochul.
Bragg and Hochul met behind closed doors, but he was noticeably absent when the governor emerged for a news conference with several other district attorneys from Queens, Brooklyn and Westchester. Hochul confirmed that she discussed the incident with Bragg, adding that she was “confident there will be more charges brought.”
Hours later, Bragg convened an early evening press conference to try and clarify his position — insisting he would not tolerate attacks on police, following days of criticism and silence from his office.
“We do not tolerate or accept assaults on police officers. I watched the tape this week, despicable behavior and it sickened me and outraged me,” Bragg said.
The embattled DA said his office was looking into new video to identify what role each individual may have played in the group assault. Bragg told reporters he did not request bail because he is proceeding cautiously to ensure they have the proper suspects identified in the case.
“That is what is required to secure a conviction and get accountability and send the right people to jail. That’s what we’ve been working on all week,” Bragg said, noting that the one who was “deemed to have committed the most serious crimes is currently on Rikers.”
He also said the office has received more information than it did after Saturday, and he expects to get further information in the next few days. What remains unclear is if Bragg has any hesitation or concerns about whether they have arrested and charged the right suspects, even if they were not held on bail.
Seven suspects have been arrested for the attack so far, and police officials have said at least 13 people were involved in the attack on the officers. At least one suspect had bail set and is being held on Rikers.
Several of the suspects are migrants, NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell said, while police were familiar with some from past incidents.
“Some of them live in the migrant shelter, they appear to be migrants, obviously. I don’t know when they got here. Some of them already have lengthy police records,” said Chell. “These individuals who were arrested [or] will be arrested should be indicted, they should be sitting in Rikers awaiting their day in front of the judge. Plain and simple.”
Multiple sources familiar with the matter said they believe four of those initially arrested and released after court have since boarded a bus under aliases and were headed toward the California–Mexico border.
Federal officials said that in many cases, New York officials do not alert them when an undocumented defendant is being released from court or jail. A spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said bail was not sought in part because they were still sorting out which defendants committed which acts during the assault.
An official with the New York Office of Court Administration said they were “not aware of the defendants’ whereabouts but they are obligated to return to Court on their scheduled dates”; their next court date in New York was scheduled for March 4.
Police do not track crime committed by undocumented residents, but arrest records show residents living at 30 of the city’s 200 migrant shelters have been arrested more than 1,200 times in the last year. City records show the top crimes include petit larceny, assault, grand larceny, endangering the welfare of a child and robbery.
Former NYPD Chief of Department and current NBC New York consultant Terry Monahan said that while the vast majority of migrants are coming to the U.S. to seek better lives, crime is a growing problem.
“A lot of times it shows it’s a first arrest for that individual because it’s the first time they’re here. And they’re getting sent right back out on the streets to do it again,” Monahan said.
Gov. Hochul has shared harsh words for the migrants arrested.
“Get them all — send them back,” the Democrat said Thursday. “You don’t touch our police officers, you don’t touch anyone.”
The lack of consequences for the suspects has sparked police pushback.
“Why aren’t they in jail right now? They brutally attacked a police officer and a lieutenant. Our criminal justice system is upside down,” said Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Hendry.
Details of the Times Square Attack
Authorities say the caught-on-camera brawl erupted as cops tried to break up a group of migrants in front of a shelter on 42nd Street, steps from the New Amsterdam Theatre. Police officials said Thursday that it is believed at least 13 people were involved in the attack on the officers.
Multiple law enforcement sources said it all started when a couple of people walked up to the officers and said there was a group being disorderly, causing issues.
Police went to check it out, and the situation escalated quickly. Video obtained by NBC New York shows the moments before the beatdown, as a police officer and a lieutenant were talking to the group. They put their hands on one person and suddenly, the cops are surrounded. They stumble down 42nd Street, where the officers fall to the ground, before being kicked, stomped and punched in the face and head.
One lieutenant suffered a cut to his face. The other officer has injuries to the side of his body.
“I’m appalled at this. The city, we have had enough,” said Chell. “The shame of this is they’re trying to keep this city safe, and they get attacked by eight cowards who are kicking them in the face, taking cheap shots.”
Those arrested have been accused of assault or attempted assault on a police officer and gang assault. Several are charged additionally with obstructing governmental administration.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have not commented on whether they will attempt to detain the defendants in this case. Camille Joseph Varlack, the chief of staff for Mayor Adams, said NYC’s sanctuary city status does not prevent police from coordinating with ICE.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.
Violence at migrant shelters has been a burgeoning problem as of late, prompting demands for fresh quality of life initiatives in certain neighborhoods. The city’s largest shelter is on Randall’s Island, where a deadly fight broke out earlier this month. Three people were arraigned Tuesday in that case.