A 24-year-old man who spent 33 months in a Rikers Island jail cell awaiting a trial for a murder he said he didn't commit told the I-Team that he was just one of several people to be pressured by a precinct accused of civil rights violations.
"I want it to stop," said Salim Wilson. "I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through. It was the worst experience."
Wilson was arrested on murder charges in the Bronx's Morrisania neighborhood more than two years ago and maintained his innocence since the beginning. And in late September, all criminal charges against Wilson and a co-defendant were dismissed by the Bronx District Attorney after an alleged eyewitness recanted.
Wilson decided to speak out after a series of reports by the I-Team on allegations by other teens and men that 42nd precinct officers have repeatedly made false arrests and pressured witnesses to lie.
“That’s me, I was in the same shoes,”Wilson said. “I thought I was the only one that went through it.”
The NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau is now conducting an investigation into Cotto's arrest and other complaints against officers in the 42nd Precinct. Multiple teenagers told the I-Team they were pressured to lie in criminal cases and threatened with beatings.
Private Investigator Manuel Gomez has been hired by several families in the Bronx. A 19-year-old man arrested earlier this year also sued the department alleging he was choked in a patrol car until he passed out.
“The pattern I’m seeing is that you have arrests being done from murder to robbery to shootings, all being falsified by the 42nd precinct by the same detectives, and all the witnesses saying they’re forced to lie," he said.
Wilson said he lost his job and his apartment during the months he was behind bars and is now trying to start over.
“It’s traumatizing. Because why would you want to do that to somebody’s life?” he said.