An NYPD sergeant was arraigned Thursday after he allegedly punched a man in a Harlem holding cell in 2019, and then six months later knelt on another suspect's back after the man hurled racial slurs at him during an arrest.
Phillip Wong was charged with third-degree assault and third-degree attempted assault for the two incidents, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.
The first incident involving the 15-year veteran of the NYPD occurred on Oct. 4, 2019, court documents read. Wong was assigned to Transit District 3 in Hamilton Heights when a group of officers brought in a 48-year-old man and two others for processing at the 145th Street station following arrests.
As the sergeant and two other officers escorted the men into their cells, the 48-year-old man kicked the door while handcuffed and started spitting at the police. In response, Wong pushed past two other officers, reopened the cell door and punched the man in the face, according to court documents.
The man was treated at the hospital for a cut above his eye, which required stitches, court documents stated.
Nearly seven months later, Wong was involved in another incident, this time at the subway station on West 96th Street and Broadway on the Upper West Side. Court documents showed that a 35-year-old man was being arrested by an officer who saw the man punch a passenger on the train.
As he was being led out of the station on April 29, 2020, the suspect shouted anti-Asian slurs and other obscenities at Wong, before kicking him in the leg. That's when Wong and another officer brought the man to the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back, with the sergeant kneeling on the man's back as he lay on his stomach.
The man continued to taunt Wong, according to court documents, before telling Wong he couldn't breathe.
"I don't give a f--- if you can breathe or not," Wong responded, according to prosecutors, and punched the man in the side of the face. He then put both his knees on the suspect's back, bouncing multiple times, the DA alleged.
The suspect was taken to the hospital, where it was determined he hadn't sustained any physical injuries.
"When NYPD officers head into the field each day to face unknown and potentially life-threatening situations, they do one of the most difficult jobs in the world," said District Attorney Cy Vance. “But having sworn an oath to protect and serve their communities, those difficult jobs need to be carried out with the utmost integrity and professionalism, especially by officers in leadership. As alleged, this Sergeant grossly violated his training – and the law – during the arrests of these two individuals, whose conduct did not justify these violent responses."
The sergeant surrendered to authorities on Thursday and was charged with the two misdemeanors. He pleaded not guilty. His attorney spoke out against the charges, saying Wong — who ad an unblemished record aside from these incidents — had been called racial slurs before the alleged assaults.
"In one instance, my client is accused of punching a prisoner who was spitting on him, another he's accused of punching a prisoner who's calling him all sorts of ethnic and racial slurs," said Andrew Quinn. "Our feeling is that this is much ore indicative of a lack of respect for police officers citywide, and people have this belief that they're free to call a cap whatever they want to call a cop, without consequence."
The second confrontation, a month before George Floyd’s death from a Minneapolis police officer behaving in a similar fashion for more than eight minutes, was also captured on multiple body-worn and security cameras. Quinn indicated that there is video of the incidents, some of which he has seen
Spokespeople for the NYPD and the Sergeants Benevolent Association also declined comment.