One Police Plaza

Feds may grease wheels of justice

May 20, 2005

It was two years ago this week that Aaron Wong, a black Staten Island man, was allegedly beaten by a retired white officer and arrested, even though he suffered a broken jaw, while the retired cop was released.

Now, with probes by the Staten Island district attorney and the Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau apparently going nowhere, federal prosecutors have stepped in.

Two law enforcement officials have told Newsday the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn is "reviewing" the case, which came to light in this column in October.

"I don't know where they are going with this," one official said. "We'll see where it takes us."

Here's the story so far, according to Wong and his girlfriend, Brooke Lopez:

On May 16, 2003, the day after Wong's 21st birthday, he and Lopez, then 19, parked in a cul-de-sac outside a small apartment complex in the Port Richmond section of Staten Island, where they were confronted by the complex's owner, James Mangone.

Mangone cursed at Wong, using racial epithets, then ordered them to leave, but blocked their car with his truck.

Mangone, who stands 6 feet and weighs 200 pounds, threw a circular saw through the car's windshield. He also shoved Wong, breaking his driver's-side mirror. Wong, who stands 5-feet-9 and weighs 140, hit Mangone with it, cutting him above the eye.

Mangone was joined by two friends, one of whom grabbed an item from Mangone's truck and chased Wong. The second drew a gun, stopping him.

Lopez, a light-skinned Hispanic woman, called 911 on her cell phone, saying, "My boyfriend, who is black, is being attacked by a white man."

Minutes later, Emergency Medical Services technicians and police from the 120th Precinct arrived as the man with the gun fled.

One of the responding officers, three-year veteran Young Woo, allowed Mangone's friend to handcuff Wong while Mangone stepped on his neck.

In his arrest report, Yoo wrote that Wong caused "physical injury to another person by means of a dangerous instrument," adding that Wong possessed "a dangerous or deadly instrument with intent to use it unlawfully against another."

This apparently referred to a closed knife Wong carried for his work as a veterinary technician. The knife fell out of his pocket during the struggle.

No mention was made of Yoo's allegedly allowing a civilian to handcuff Wong. No mention was made of Lopez, who says she was never questioned.

Instead of being taken to the hospital, as the Patrol Guide states is proper procedure for a serious injury, Wong was taken to the station house. Hours later, after complaining of pain, he was he taken to St. Vincent's Hospital and diagnosed with a broken jaw.

Instead of admitting Wong, which is proper procedure, police returned him to the station house, where he remained until the next day when he was arraigned. After a judge released him, he received an operation.

Charges against him were dismissed on June 28, 2004, after Mangone didn't show up in court. Both the NYPD and Mangone have refused to comment on the matter.

Tale of two shootings. Last year, Richard Neri, a white police officer, fatally shot Timothy Stansbury, a black teenager, on a Brooklyn rooftop.

Within hours, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stated that there "appears to be no justification" for the shooting.

Black City Councilman Charles Barron held a series of angry news conferences. The media provided daily coverage.

Earlier this month, Lt. Shakim Walton, a black Internal Affairs lieutenant collecting rent for a building he owned in Brooklyn, fatally shot Byron Hearst, an unarmed black man.

Kelly has said nothing. Barron held one news conference. No story about the shooting has appeared the past week.

On lockdown. Chief of Patrol Nicholas Estavillo must have little to do. Last Friday, he ordered a lockdown of One Police Plaza because the governor of Puerto Rico was visiting. He did the same Monday when the Emir of Qatar came by. Officials noted that 1PP is not locked down for the governor of New York or for the mayor, although it was closed last year for half the day when Homeland Security head Tom Ridge showed up.

©2005 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.