What to Know
- The former NYPD sergeant who shot a man he claimed to be a robber last summer pleaded guilty to evidence tampering
- A surveillance video captured the alleged incident, which took place in Brooklyn last August
- The victim survived the shooting; the off-duty sergeant was subsequently fired
The former NYPD sergeant who shot a man he claimed to be a robber while off-duty last summer — then was caught on camera planting a knife at the scene and then retrieving it — pleaded guilty to evidence tampering, the Brooklyn district attorney said.
Ritchard Blake faced two counts of tampering with physical evidence, and initially pleaded not guilty. At that time, he faced up to four years in prison, and prosecutors recently sought between one and three years behind bars. But the judge on Friday indicated that he will avoid jail time altogether, and instead is facing five years on probation.
“With today’s guilty plea to a felony offense, this defendant is being held accountable for his troubling behavior. He admitted to tampering with evidence in a failed attempt to frame another person and is no longer a member of the NYPD," said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, adding they wanted a prison sentence, but accepted the judge's ruling.
Blake will not face charges in the actual shooting of the man in August 2018.
The footage of the shooting, which contains no audio, shows the two men having words for about 20 seconds before the sergeant pulls his gun. The other man appears to brace himself before being shot.
Afterward, the officer can be seen dropping a shiny item next to the man; he later returns and picks the item back up.
Law enforcement sources told News 4 at that time that the two had an ongoing dispute, possibly over a woman.
The victim survived the shooting.
Blake wasn't hurt, but was placed on modified duty, NYPD Chief Terrence Monahan said the day of the shooting. Blake was subsequently fired.
"There are certain things that we saw during this investigation that we have questions that are unanswered at this point. Until we answer them, we felt it was best to place him on modified duty," Monahan said at a press conference following the shooting.
In a statement Friday, NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill said that "by swiftly moving to terminate former Sergeant Ritchard Blake in August of 2018, the department sends a clear and unambiguous message that criminal conduct will not be tolerated within the ranks of the NYPD."
Blake was allegedly on his way to work that August morning when he shot 21-year-old Thavone Santana. He later told police the man walked up to him in Brooklyn and said something like, "You're gonna die tonight," before pretending he had a gun and trying to rob him, authorities and sources familiar with the investigation previously told News 4.
Blake told police at the time that he was was walking toward his car when the man approached him. Blake was wearing plainclothes when the incident occurred.
The former sergeant previously told police he said "don't rob me" and offered the man his cellphone instead. Then he pulled out the gun and fired twice, striking the man in the chin, authorities said.
According to police, the former officer said the man threatened him and acted as though he had a gun, though he never showed a weapon.
The video surveillance shows that when Santana – who had his left hand in his pocket throughout the entire interaction – advanced towards the defendant, the defendant, while backing away, fired one shot, striking Santana in the mouth. Prosecutors say no weapon was found in Santana's pocket, but police recovered a razor blade on the ground next to Santana, according to the investigation.
"This is a shocking offense, especially given the defendant’s obligations as a police officer, and we intend to hold him accountable for his alleged conduct,” Gonzalez said in a statement.