The man accused of stabbing a Long Island police officer in the leg, causing him to nearly bleed out and die, appeared in court for the first time Wednesday — with about 100 officers there to greet him.
With a mask covering his face, Jonathan Nunez appeared to show little emotion while at the Suffolk County court in Riverhead, where he entered a not guilty plea to aggravated assault and nine other criminal counts.
"We will do whatever is necessary to hold this defendant accountable for his horrific actions," said Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini.
The DA said Nunez was on probation the night of April 10, when he was allegedly high on methamphetamines and driving a Mercedes Benz erratically with no headlights on. The wild driving is what led Suffolk County Officer Christopher Racioppo to pursue him on South Ocean Avenue in Patchogue around 10:45 p.m. that night.
Sometime after Racioppo turned on his overhead lights, Nunez crashed the Mercedes he was driving into a Nissan where the roadway intersects with Brook Street. Then Nunez got out of the car and "failed to comply with the officer's commands," officials said previously.
A physical altercation ensued between Nunez and Racioppo, at which point Nunez allegedly stabbed the officer in the leg. Other responding officers and two good Samaritans subdued Nunez.
One of those witnesses was Guillermo Sandoval, a Marine veteran who rushed out of his home after he heard the Nissan crash into a tree in his lawn. Sandoval said he saw Nunez ask for help, but at the same time, he says he saw Racioppo tell Nunez to stand down. Then the two started to fight in his backyard.
"The officer was down. I saw that he had a wound, here on his leg, basically he needed help," Sandoval recalled.
He said he went back into his home to call 911 and grab a belt to try to use as a tourniquet to help stop the officer's bleeding. By the time he returned, other officers had arrived and they along with another witness, retired NYPD Detective JR Recupero, were assisting the injured cop. Nunez was then taken into custody.
Racioppo suffered a ruptured artery when he was stabbed in the leg, the blade extending seven centimeters into his leg, severing muscle and the femoral artery. The trauma surgeon who operated on him said the cop could've died within 20 minutes had Sandoval and others not raced to stem the bleeding.
The 31-year-old remained in a medically induced coma for days, and spent more than two weeks in the hospital before being released Monday. Long-term impacts, including whether he'll be able to walk at some point again, are still uncertain at this point.
Nunez remains behind bars, held without bail. His lawyer refused to comment on Wednesday.