NYPD Detective Sues Fellow Cop After DWI Arrest

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    NEWSLETTERS

    One NYPD cop is suing another, after a surveillance camera in Brooklyn caught a bizarre drunk driving arrest on tape. Chris Glorioso reports. (Published Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014)

    One NYPD cop is suing another, after a surveillance camera in Brooklyn caught a bizarre drunk driving arrest on tape.
    Three years ago, Detective Joseph Oquendo stopped at a traffic light in Brooklyn following a night out with friends, and fell asleep.

    Oquendo was wakened by police officers and arrested on drunk driving charges.
    But the video taken of the arrest tells a different tale than the one in police paperwork. And now Oquendo, who was acquitted on all charges, has filed a lawsuit against the city seeking more than $2 million in damages and fees.
    “The sergeant just completely lied as to every aspect of what he saw,” Oquendo said.
    A spokeswoman for the NYPD declined comment, citing an ongoing investigation and pending litigation. The sergeant who arrested Oquendo, Viet Cao, declined to comment on the lawsuit when the I-Team tried to visit him at his Brooklyn home. 
    Oquendo maintains that he was sober that early morning in May 2011. He had had three drinks hours earlier, and was driving an acquaintance home in Brooklyn, he said.
    "I never anticipated to fall asleep at a light but unfortunately I did," Oquendo said.
    The surveillance video from a camera at a hospital near the intersection shows Oquendo pulling his BMW up to a Brooklyn traffic light, then falling asleep at the wheel. It shows officers arrive to investigate. None of them wake him up for about 10 minutes.
    After that, much of Cao's account of what happened doesn't appear to match the video.
    In a report to the Internal Affairs bureau that was provided to NBC 4 New York by Oquendo's attorney, Cao said the driver was “slumped over the steering wheel." But the video shows Oquendo sitting upright.
    Cao also said he “knocked on the windshield and window for several minutes" to wake up the driver. On the video, officers seem to knock for a few seconds before Oquendo hands over his badge and ID.
    Finally, Cao said Oquendo “needed the support of his car to stand up" after he got out of his car. But the video shows Oquendo looking steady on his feet, following instructions, and walking without losing balance.
    No blood alcohol or breath tests were performed.
    There were other police officers at the scene; court papers indicate they disagreed with Cao's assessment.
    Cao has been sued for false arrest before.
    Last year he arrested a film student for pointing his camera toward a precinct -- even though recording video of a public building is legal. Using this video as evidence, the film student sued the NYPD and won an undisclosed settlement. 
    Oquendo’s lawyer, Frederick Brewington, says Cao has a pattern of making false statements to support false arrests.
    “When you have a situation that is going to cheapen that badge… that is going to cheapen the uniform, by making false and unreasonable statements in the light of true and strong evidence. That is something we have to stand up against," Brewington said.