Two Queens New York Police Department (NYPD) detectives were arraigned last week on charges of assaulting a uniformed postal worker in October who had unwittingly given directions to the man who killed two NYPD officers in 2014 as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn.
Dets. Angelo J. Pampena, 31, and Robert A. Carbone, 29, both pleaded not-guilty in Queens Supreme Court Wednesday to a five-count indictment, which includes charges of second- and third-degree assault. The two are accused of kicking and punching Karim Baker, 26, and then dragging him from his parked car onto the sidewalk, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a statement.
Pampena, a nine-year veteran, and Carbone, an eight-year veteran, were released without bail, according to the district attorney’s office. An NYPD spokesperson told NBC News in an email that both detectives were suspended without pay.
The NYPD added “there is no evidence that the officers had any idea who Mr. Baker was” before the incident, which happened on Oct. 21, 2015.
A woman who answered the phone for Pampena’s attorney, James Moschella, said he was on vacation and unavailable to comment. Carbone’s attorney, Steven Kartagener, did not return a phone message Friday seeking comment.
Eric Subin, Baker’s attorney, told NBC News that Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who fatally shot officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos on Dec. 20, 2014, approached Baker earlier that day for directions to a housing project. At the time, Baker was a FedEx employee and was on the street delivering packages.
Brinsley, 28, had made threats against police on social media and had also shot his girlfriend that same day before traveling to New York from Baltimore. After killing Liu and Ramos, Brinsley turned the gun on himself, ending his own life in a nearby subway station.
Subin said Baker, who didn’t know Brinsley, was questioned about his encounter after being seen on surveillance video providing the directions. In the months that followed, Baker alleges he was then harassed by police, Subin said, which included 20 traffic stops over a 10-month period. The alleged stops were for such infractions as changing lanes without signaling and rolling through stop signs, according to Subin. Although tickets were never issued, officers allegedly asked Baker for ID and looked around in his car, Subin said.
An NYPD spokesperson said in an email that “there is no evidence that Mr. Baker was harassed by other members of the NYPD following [the] shooting of Ramos and Liu.”
The Oct. 21 incident with police unfolded right after Baker finished work that evening in Queens, the district attorney said. Still in his U.S. Postal Service uniform, Baker was sitting in his parked car when he was approached by police who allegedly asked to see his ID, Subin said. In a back-and-forth with officers, Baker said he would not show his ID unless he was told why it was needed, Subin said. The officers then allegedly told Baker he was too close to a fire hydrant, according to Subin.
Pampena and Carbone allegedly beat Baker, striking him multiple times in the face and body, and then dragged him out of his car and onto the sidewalk, the Queens district attorney said. Subin said Baker, who has been unable to return to work, suffered bruises to his face, tears to ligaments in his knee and injuries to his spine.
“He was a mess,” Subin said. “He got the hell beaten out of him.”
According to the Queens district attorney, Pampena had filed a criminal court complaint stating Baker was parked directly in front a fire hydrant, but video footage revealed the car was more than 15 feet away.
A criminal case against Baker was later dropped and the file sealed, prosecutors said. The NYPD said its Internal Affairs Bureau “developed information/video that was used to counter the officers’ account of what transpired during the arrest.”
In addition to assault, Pampena was charged with second-degree perjury, first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, and official misconduct, the district attorney’s office said.
Last Monday, Baker filed a $100 million civil lawsuit in Queens State Supreme Court against the city and the NYPD. The city has 30 days to reply to the filing, Subin said. The city’s Law Department, which handles litigation against New York City, did not return an email Friday seeking comment.
Pampena and Carbone are due back in court in June. Both face up to seven years in prison if convicted.