(CNN) — The Manhattan District Attorney has indicted a New York police officer for repeatedly punching a man who was acting “erratically” in the face and knocking him unconscious during an encounter in the West Village in November 2021, which “caused the victim to suffer substantial pain.”
NYPD Officer Juan Perez, 42, pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in court Wednesday and “categorically denies the allegations put forth by the district attorney,” his lawyer, James Kilduff, told CNN.
Prosecutors said the victim also sustained a broken nose and bruising around the eyes.
“Police officers are often put in challenging situations, but they must use their training appropriately and treat the residents of New York City with respect,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement.
On November 10, 2021, Perez responded to a call about a man acting erratically and throwing water on pedestrians at a location in the West Village, prosecutors said in a statement of facts provided by the DA’s office.
When officers arrived, they witnessed a standoff between three men, one of whom was holding a large bottle of alcohol above his head, the statement of facts details.
The man told police he was being harassed.
Perez told the man to sit and took the bottle from his hand. The man complied but continued talking to Perez and repeatedly tried to stand up, according to the statement of facts.
Perez called for an ambulance, believing the man was intoxicated, prosecutors said in a news release from the DA’s office. After a continued verbal back and forth, Perez is accused by prosecutors of pushing the man against a wall to handcuff him.
The man was not under arrest at the time, the statement of facts details, adding that the victim told Perez he was placing the wrong person under arrest.
Both Perez and the man fell to the ground and began to struggle. Perez’s partner then helped subdue the man, according to the news release, which says Perez “proceeded to rapidly punch the victim six times in the face, while he was lying on the ground defenseless.”
“He was brought to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a broken nose and significant swelling,” the release said.
The man was unconscious for at least one minute and while later testing showed the man was intoxicated, “all objective evidence makes clear that he was also in the throes of a serious psychiatric crisis,” prosecutors said in the statement of facts.
Much of the incident was captured on police body-worn cameras and video from bystanders. “Based on testimony and video about the above events, the Grand Jury returned an indictment, necessarily finding that the defendant was not justified in his use of force,” the statement of facts reads.
CNN’s Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller said cases where officers are criminally charged are relatively rare, as prosecutors are often reluctant to take on cases involving allegations of police brutality.
Miller said there are some cases that cross the line where the use of force is so egregious, it defies reasonable explanation. If an incident is captured on video, it makes for a stronger case, Miller said.
The NYPD said Perez has been suspended without pay – an automatic action in New York City once a police officer is arrested and charged, Miller noted.