"It felt like I got shot." That's how an NYPD lieutenant smashed in the back of the head during a protest that turned violent described the attack.
Lieutenant Jorge Rodriguez was seen on video getting hit by a brick-wielding man who then fled into the crowd. He says his police helmet likely saved his life.
“I am still dazed. I have headaches that haven’t gone away,” Rodriguez said. After he got home from the hospital, he watched the video of the attack that has gone viral.
“I was shaking. I almost stopped breathing,” Rodriguez said after seeing the incident. “I just broke down because I saw my life end in front of me.”
Police said the lieutenant stayed with his fellow officers even after being injured. Rodriguez said police were fighting with about 100 people in a crowd who were throwing objects and threatening area businesses.
He said he supports the protesters but this “was a riot and we were fighting for our lives.” He said protesters were throwing rocks, bottles, vacuum cleaners, phones – even a moped.
“Whatever they can get there hands on they threw at us,” Rodriguez said.
After the lieutenant went down, an officer is seen pulling his gun and pointing it at the crowd. Mayor Bill de Blasio had publicly called for that officer to lose his badge before the full video and Rodriguez’s version of events were known.
A spokeswoman for the mayor declined to comment if the mayor had seen the new video of the attack on the lieutenant that preceded the officer drawing his weapon. Police Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch said de Blasio rushed to judgement.
“That (video) shows that a person came out of the crowd within a foot and tried to kill a New York City Police lieutenant,” he said. Lynch added the mayor should apologize for accusing the patrolman who drew his weapon before all the facts were known.
This incident was just one of many where police officers were injured in the ongoing violence, much of it at night. Along Walton Avenue in the Bronx, suspected looters in a get-away car ran over and seriously injured a police sergeant who was coming to investigate reports of a break-in at a pawn shop. Also in the Bronx, a video showed an officer getting beaten by a group of potential vandals along Fordham Road. Yet another video shows an injured officer lying face down on a sidewalk along Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side.
“There was chaos in our city,” Lynch said, adding that city hall needed a better plan to empower officers to stop the violence.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said he was outraged by the mayor and NYPD's collective handling of the looting and chaos.
“The police did not do their job last night, but you have 38,000 NYPD (members) and they have protected the city before in situations like this," Cuomo said.
Responding to the governor's complaints, the Detectives Endowment Association said on Twitter called out the governor to "support the men & women who are working to stop NYC from burning. That's what leadership is."
When pressed about the failures to stop widespread looting, the mayor tried to push back.
”I am so sick of these efforts to mischaracterize reality,” de Blasio said. “There is no such thing as being able to loot with impunity.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said there were more than 700 arrests, and said police would do better. “We will protect citizens of this city and all property owners of this city," Shea said.
The mayor announced a curfew for 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. June 8. Police are also closing traffic to cars south of 96th Street that are not residents, trucks making deliveries or essential vehicles.