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NYPD officer speaks out on his widely praised use of nonlethal force: 'Life is precious'

The officer, who used words and a baton to fend off five men, cautioned that police reaction has to be "situation-based."

The New York police officer hailed for using nonlethal force to fend off a gang of men in a confrontation shown on a viral video said Thursday that pulling a gun should not always be an officer's first option.

"Life is precious, and going to that weapon is not necessarily the first thing we should be thinking about," Officer Syed Ali said to reporters Thursday about his management of a tense confrontation Sunday night.

Image: Syed Ali
New York City police officer Syed Ali walks out of a briefing room at police headquarters on Dec. 27, 2018.Michael R. Sisak / AP

"There are other tools that we've been given, other tactics that we've been shown, and we got to use all of the resources before going to deadly physical force."

Ali, an Army combat veteran, added that he used his training from both the NYPD and the military to handle the situation.

He cautioned, however, that law enforcement must react to whatever circumstances demand.

"That has to be situation-based," Ali said. "There's a thousand different situations that a police officer can encounter, and whatever that police officer deems most safe for himself" is what they will execute.

The incident began when a woman waiting for a subway train on the Lower East Side of Manhattan reported that several men were sexually harassing her.

After Ali, on a solo foot patrol, responded and told the five men to leave the station, they can be seen on the bystander's video appearing to approach him in a threatening manner.

Ali is seen pulling out his baton and kicking at least two of the men, and is heard saying, "I don't want to hurt you."

Three of the men suspected of being involved were criminally charged, police said Thursday. Juan Nunez, 27, and Leobardo Alvarado, 31, were charged with obstructing governmental administration and riot, police said. Eliseo Alvarez Santos, 36, also faces those charges in addition to attempted assault, attempted criminal possession of a weapon and menacing, authorities said

Image: Cop assault suspects
Elisio Alvarez, left, Juan Nunez,and Leobardo Alvarado, listen to a court interpreter as they are arraigned on assault charges in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Dec. 27, 2018.Robert Mecea

Ali told reporters he is not well-versed in social media and had no idea his response had received such wide acclaim. The video posted to a bystander's Facebook page was shared more than 16,000 times.

The officer said he is getting messages from all over world, including from an old service pal, a sergeant still serving overseas.

"He called me and he also messaged me saying: 'I couldn't believe that was you. What the hell is going on?'" Ali recounted. "I was like, 'Ahh just being a cop.'"