Detective Who Joined in SUV Gang Attack Arrested

NEW YORK (AP) -
Wojciech Braszczok (R), with face covered, on Wednesday leaves the courthouse in New York following his arrest. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Wojciech Braszczok (R), with face covered, on Wednesday leaves the courthouse in New York following his arrest. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

An undercover police detective participating in a motorcycle gang attack pounded on the rear window of an SUV while other bikers attacked the driver through his window, according to a criminal complaint Wednesday charging him with gang assault.

Wojciech Braszczok, a member of the NYPD intelligence unit, was an “active participant” in the attack on Alexian Lien’s car two weeks ago following a chase up Manhattan’s West Side Highway, prosecutors said. He did nothing to stop it, didn’t report it to his superiors for two days, and then when did, he lied about it, changing his story to say he saw the attack but didn’t participate, said Assistant District Attorney Samantha Turino.

“That is clearly not the case,” Turino said. Law enforcement officials have said video from the scene shows the undercover officer participating.

The SUV driver was eventually pulled from his car and beaten on the street, though Braszczok, 32, is not charged with attacking Lien.

Braszczok, who appeared in court sporting a beard and wearing a hooded sweatshirt and camouflage pants, was also charged with assault and criminal mischief. He was off-duty during the rally.

His lawyer, John Arlia, said the video actually exculpates his client, who was at least 12 feet from the attack on Lien, a married father of a toddler whose family was in the car at the time.

“This particular video in question exonerates my client — it is an absolute overcharge,” he said. The SUV’s back window already had a “gaping, softball-sized hole” in it, he said.

The detective posted $150,000 bail and left the courthouse with his hood pulled up as far as possible. He climbed into a waiting car.

Braszczok was stripped of his gun and badge after internal affairs detectives discovered he was present for at least part of the melee. He initially told authorities and his union that he left without intervening, in part because of his role as an undercover. Uniformed officers, even off-duty, are expected to jump in if a crime is occurring, but rules are murkier for undercover officers who face blowing their covers.

But investigators discovered video evidence showing Braszczok punching an already damaged back window, causing it to shatter, then twice kicking the passenger side of the SUV before leaving the scene.

The arrest added to the complexities of the Sept. 29 episode, which authorities say began with a reckless motorcycle group ride. More than 1,000 bikers participated. Several have been charged criminally, either with attacking Lien or his car or instigating the violent encounter.