Ex-DHS Police Sergeant Accused of Assaulting Man at Homeless Shelter, Stomping on His Head More Than 10 Times - NBC New York

Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Ex-DHS Police Sergeant Accused of Assaulting Man at Homeless Shelter, Stomping on His Head More Than 10 Times

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    Ex-Sergeant Accused of Assaulting Man at Shelter

    A former New York City Department of Homeless Services police sergeant is accused of stomping a man's head during a confrontation at a homeless shelter, according to prosecutors. Jonathan Dienst reports.

    (Published Thursday, March 7, 2019)

    What to Know

    • Ex-DHS police sergeant accused of assaulting an individual at homeless shelter and stomping on his head at least 10 times, prosecutors say

    • Cordell Fitts, 34 and of Manhattan, was arrested Thursday and faces charges of violating the victim's civil rights and falsifying report

    • Fitts was a DHS police officer from 2012 to 2018, according to the complaint file in Manhattan federal court

    A former New York City Department of Homeless Services police sergeant is accused of assaulting an individual at a men’s homeless shelter by kicking, punching and stomping on his head more than 10 times, according to prosecutors.

    Cordell Fitts, 34, was arrested Thursday and charged with one count of deprivation of the victim's civil rights through the use of excessive force and one count of falsifying a report, Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, and Margaret Garnett, the commissioner of the city's Department of Investigation, announced jointly Thursday.

    If convicted, Fitts, of Manhattan, could face a maximum penalty of 10 years for the deprivation of rights charge and 20 years for the charge pertaining to falsifying a report.

    A judge ordered Fitts released on a $100,000 bond Thursday afternoon. He was given 10 days to find a bond co-signer.

    Fitts' attorney had no comment following Thursday's hearing. 

    The charges stem from an alleged incident that occurred on the night of March 6, 2017 at the Bellevue Shelter — a men’s homeless shelter located in Manhattan maintained by DHS and for which DHS police officers provide security.

    According to a complaint unsealed Thursday in Manhattan federal court, the alleged victim, identified in the documents as Victim-1, was seeking services at the Bellevue Shelter.

    At the time of the incident, the victim was in the lobby of the Bellevue Shelter and interacting with about three DHS officers, including Fitts, the complaint states. Allegedly, Fitts and the man exchanged words and Fitts gestured toward an exit area of the shelter. Fitts then reached toward the victim and put his hands on or about the chest area of the victim, according to the complaint.

    The man allegedly responded by swinging at Fitts with what appeared to be closed fists, according to the complaint, and a physical altercation followed, which resulted in the alleged victim being taken to the ground.

    Officers then got on top of his legs and back while Fitts stood next to him, the complaint says. At that point, Fitts punched, kicked and stomped the victim's head about 11 times, according to the complaint.

    After allegedly kicking and stomping on the victim’s head, Fitts backed away as two other officers tried to place handcuffs on the victim while he was face-down on the floor.

    However, Fitts then walked back to the victim and punched him in the area of his head about two more times, the complaint says.

    In a report dictated by Fitts regarding to the incident, it states, that “necessary force” was used to “safely detain” the victim, according to the complaint, which also states that the alleged falsified report said: “After initial medical assessment [Victim-1] stated ‘I am off my psych medication and going through a lot.’”

    According to the complaint, the statements were untrue and were included in the report by Fitts to cover up and justify the assault.

    Fitts was a DHS police officer from 2012 to 2018, the complaint says.

    In a statement to NBC 4 New York, Isaac McGinn, a spokesman for DHS, said: “The actions described, including the cover-up, are horrifying and will never be tolerated in our City. Through our partnership with the NYPD, we remain squarely focused on improving shelter security while strengthening oversight.”

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