New York, NY – A New York police officer facing charges for allegedly assaulting a violent suspect inside an Apple store on the city’s Upper West Side nearly two years ago is being “railroaded” by prosecutors and “did nothing wrong” that day, according to a security guard who witnessed the melee.
Brian Plunkett, a 58-year-old security guard who still works at the Apple store on Broadway where the incident occurred on Oct. 19, 2021, said the entire situation has been turned on its head to make the suspect look like a victim while villainizing the officer who came to help that day, the New York Post reported.
Plunkett said the suspect, whose identity has not been released, was disturbing customers inside the business, then shoved him and threatened to stab him, according to the paper.
The suspect had previously been banned from the store for attacking security and repeatedly causing problems there, WABC reported.
When he began threatening to kill Plunkett, employees called the police for help.
New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer Salvatore Provenzano, a 16-year veteran of the department, was among the officers who responded to the scene, CBS News reported.
The officers spoke with the suspect for about 40 minutes and attempted to reason with him to no avail, according to WABC.
It was eventually time for the business to close, so Officer Provenzano began escorting the suspect from the building.
The suspect pulled away, resulting in a scuffle between him and police.
Prosecutors said they have bodycam footage showing Officer Provenzano hitting the combative suspect in the face one time, CBS News reported.
But Plunkett said the officer did absolutely nothing wrong.
“The police officers never touched him,” the security guard told the New York Post. “The perp gave him an elbow to the side of the head. I don’t know if it connected. They put him on the ground and arrested him.”
“The cop is being railroaded,” Plunkett said, noting that he would tell a judge the exact same thing.
“If I get called to court to testify, I will testify on behalf of the police,” he told the New York Post. “He did nothing wrong.”
Assistant District Attorney Tavish DeAtley disagreed.
“The people take seriously any incident where a member of law enforcement uses force without justification, and that is simply what we have here,” DeAtley said during Officer Provenzano’s arraignment hearing on Wednesday.
A grand jury indicted Officer Provenzano on a charge of third-degree assault, the New York Post reported.
He faces up to one year in prison if he is convicted.
The veteran officer was offered a plea agreement for a lesser charge of second-degree harassment, but he turned it down, CBS News reported.
He has been suspended without pay while the matter is pending.
“All this officer did was attempt to escort him out of the location,” Officer Provenzano’s attorney, Stuart London, told CBS News. “As he puts his hand on his elbow to have him leave, he immediately flings his arm back, tenses his body. And this officer reasonably thought he was going to be struck, and he hits him one time, and he goes down with no injury at all.”
London further noted prosecutors didn’t bother to call Plunkett as a witness during the grand jury proceedings.
“Isn’t that unbelievable that [the DA’s office] didn’t think it was important to call this witness?” London told the New York Post. “I am grateful the media was able to corroborate what I indicated at the press conference: That this officer was justified in using minimal force of one punch.”
Plunkett said he was stunned to learn the incident was still a topic of discussion.
“I was surprised when I saw on the news that this thing is still going on and that this poor cop is getting arrested for this,” he told the New York Post. “That’s what’s going on today, that’s the world. The police can’t be the police anymore, the police are the bad guys. That’s not the way the world should be.”
It is unclear why prosecutors waited two years to file charges against Officer Provenzano.
His next court hearing is scheduled for October.
A large group of Officer Provenzano’s supporters gathered outside Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office on Wednesday, where Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Patrick Hendry declared the indictment to be a travesty of justice, WABC reported.
Hendry told Manhattan business owners that they need to be prepared to stop assailants on their own because Bragg does not have their backs.
“You need to lock your doors to repeat offenders, those who repeatedly steal from you, those who repeatedly harass and assault your staff, those individuals who cause mayhem and destroy your stores and force your customers to leave,” he said. “DA Bragg is not on your side. He’s on the side of the repeat offenders and when you call 911 for that police officer to protect you, that police officer will be arrested and will be indicted.”