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Manhattan DA facing criticism over handling of attack on police officers by migrants

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg is facing mounting criticism over his handling of an attack on NYPD officers after four of the suspects in the case were released without bond and reportedly fled the state.

Seven individuals were arrested in New York City last week in connection with the shocking incident on 27 January that was captured in surveillance video. The men, whose legal status in the US is unknown but are all considered migrants, were recorded kicking and punching the officers as they were making an arrest.

Charges of assault and disorderly conduct were filed against six suspects, while a seventh was not charged due to insufficient evidence, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Four of those charged, 19-year-olds Darwin Andres Gomez and Kelvin Servita Arocha, Wilson Juarez, 21, and 24-year-old Yorman Reveron, were released without bail.

Only one suspect, 24-year-old Yohenry Brito, was held on $15,000 cash bail after he was identified on the video thanks to a “distinct tattoo.” Six additional suspects are being sought.

A senior law enforcement official told CNN that the four suspects who were released without bail have already left New York state, and are believed to be heading to the border with Mexico through California. The official, who spoke under condition of anonymity, told the network that New York authorities can’t legally pursue the suspects until after they fail to appear in court later this month.

“We have to assume they intend to return to court, which, given the circumstances around their departure, seems unlikely,” the official said.

Suspects punch and kick police in head during New York City arrest (NYPD)
Suspects punch and kick police in head during New York City arrest (NYPD)

Governor Kathy Hochul and New York Attorney General Letitia James have led criticism over DA Alvin Bragg’s failure to seek bail last week. Because of a state bill introduced by Mr Bragg in 2020, judges are barred from seeking bail in determined cases, leaving prosecutors to request it in cases determined appropriate.

A coalition of bodega owners also decried Mr Bragg’s response during a press conference in city hall on Monday.

“I don’t understand how the DA could let them go without putting any bail or hold them there when they attack the NYPD,” president of the Bodega and Small Business Group Francisco Marte said, per CBS. “We need to bring public safety back to New York. We, all New York, need public safety. We need to go to work.”

Mr Bragg previously defended his stance and argued that the evidence available at the time of the suspects’ arrests was insufficient to secure bail. He is expected to present the case before a grand jury on Tuesday.

Only one suspect, 24-year-old Yohenry Brito, was held on $15,000 cash bail after he was identified on the video thanks to a ‘distinct tattoo’ (NYPD)
Only one suspect, 24-year-old Yohenry Brito, was held on $15,000 cash bail after he was identified on the video thanks to a ‘distinct tattoo’ (NYPD)

“While the video is shocking and disturbing, in order to secure convictions in a court of law it is essential that we conclusively identify each defendant and specify each person’s participation in the incident,” Mr Bragg said last week.

Authorities said last week that the suspects had been staying at a migrant shelter in front of where the attack unfolded near Times Square.

The officers were making an arrest when several people intervened and became physically aggressive, leaving the officers with minor injuries.