Friday, December 8, 2017

Homeless Man Attacks Park Police In Historic Rec. Center

Security Questioned at Recreation Center After Violent Incident. Two PEP officers were injured at the Asser Levy Recreation Center on November 27th when an emotional disturbed homeless man attacked them while attempted to place the man under arrest.  The suspect has six prior arrests.

The problems, officers say, were compounded by lax security at the center as well as  PEP's response to scene which was impeded by faultily city vehicles which delayed them getting to the scene in time to help their fellow officers.   (Photos By: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge


By Geoffrey Croft

A disturbed homeless man attacked park police in a historic public recreation center, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

Officers were repeatedly struck by a 6’3, 220 pound emotionally disturbed man wielding a 2x4 piece of wood. They were also hit several times with fists and elbows while they  attempted to place the man under arrest. 

Park Enforcement Patrol officers were assigned to a special detail on November 27th at the Asser Levy Recreation Center on E. 23rd Street to find Robert Robinson, 54,  who had previously threatened to stab center employees, repeatedly trespassed and caused disturbances inside the historic recreational facility.   

"He’s known to be a little hot headed, disorderly and violent," an officer said speaking on the condition of anonymity, like everyone interviewed, out for fear of reprisals from the agency.     

The day before the officers had warned Robinson that he was trespassing and he was going to be arrested if he came back.

The suspect, who one officer described as having the physique of a "linebacker," told them that he was going to enter the building the next day at 6:00am and, "he’s going see who’s going to stop him,” an officer said, adding, 'if he was going to be asked to leave he was going to fight somebody,’”  an officer recalled the suspect as saying. 

"This individual was very determined,”  an officer said.  “He advised us that he was going to come back the next morning and go in there one way for another. "

NYPD arrested him in August for trespassing at the center.

Just after 7:00am officers entered the building and asked the parks' employee manning the front desk if anyone had entered the building that was not member.

“I don't know” the worker responded according to officers.

Officers split up and began patrolling the building.  One spotted him taking a shower on the second floor and waited for his partner.

They approached him in the locker room after he was dressed and informed him that he was trespassing   

Officers tried to verbally coax him outside but he wouldn’t comply and became violent.

"Get the F**k out of here,”  said and began threatening the officers.

While officers instructed him to get on the floor and place his hands behind his head he said they were going to get into a fight he said, “You guys are going down,” an officer recounted.  

“He grabbed a 2x4 piece of wood from a window and began swingingly wildly."

Officers attempted to deplore pepper spray but both malfunctioned, and just trickled out according to officers.

"He was just wiping it off his face, like it was nothing.” 

Officers were hit several times with the wood and fists and elbows.  

While officers were trying to get him down and place his arms behind his back he tossed them off.

"I don’t know where he got his strength from but like you see in the movies he threw us both off him.” 

He took off.  He leaped down a flight of stairs and ran out of the building.

Officers gave chase but he disappeared in Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village.

After the incident authorities discovered ID’s and credit cards belonging to other people in large duffle bags found in four lockers he occupied.

Two days later NYPD arrested him up for smoking K2 synthetic marijuana on 29th Street & Park Avenue South. 

He was charged with Two counts of Assault on a Peace Officer and one count of Possession of a deadly Instrument with Intention to Cause Serious Physical Injury.

He is being held on $ 5,000 bail.

On Monday Robinson was indicted by a Grand Jury.  It is being determined whether he is fit to stand trial.  

He arraignment date in Supreme Court is December 19th. 

NYPD arrested him for trespassing in August.

City employees say Robinson and his female partner often sleep on the steps of the Historic Recreation Center.

Employees said she tried to gain access to the center on Wednesday to use the bathroom but was informed she was no longer allowed.

Security Breach  

The incident also highlights glaring security issues at the center.

Officers questioned why Robinson was being allowed to endanger not only the general public but other park employees by repeatedly being allowed inside without a membership.

When officers first arrived at the center last week the first thing they did was find the Parks Department employee at the front desk who is responsible foe scanning member ID’s.  They asked if anyone had entered the building who was not member.

"His response was, "'I don't know.’

"Your main function at that facility is to ensure that only members enter in and out," an  irate officer said. “He failed to do that." 

“So you’re telling me you don’t know?  It’s a security breach.  Anybody could be going in and out of the building.     

The department needs to be made aware of this,  You put the safety of the general public in jeopardy. 

Robinson told officers the center was feeding him free lunches during the summer, allowing him to shower and store his belongings for years. 

"The rec center personal was allowing him to come and go as he pleases for a really long time, in his head he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong," an officer said.

Several park employee said Robinson and a female partner often sleep on the steps of the center.  

There was also another factor why the police were not being call more frequently, fear. 

Several park employees said there was a reluctance among center workers to call 911 because they felt intimidated.

A center employee at the front desk this week said he is often the only employee when the center opens in the morning.  

"If I’m the only one here he’ll know it was me who called police,” the employee said.

Center personal also say that security is often non-existent and that they didn’t have a PEP officer for a month before the incident. They say they often rely on City Seasonal Aids (CSA's) for security who are not peace officers and have little training or authority. 

Responding To The Scene

Officers said they called agency's Central Communications for backup, a 10-13, several times during the ordeal including instructing them to call 911 but help didn’t arrive for approximately 15- 20 minutes. 

Several PEP officers responding to the emergency call had a disastrous time getting to the location due to inadequate vehicles they say.

A PEP officer coming from Hudson River Park (HRP) driving a Ford Escape with more than 144,000 miles stalled three times on the FDR Drive responding to the distress call. 

Another vehicle driven by a Manhattan North Sgt. hit a pot hole which knocked out the lights and sirens.

Another vehicle PEP is forced to use in HRP was parked on W. 23rd St. when the call came over but the "pizza delivery” style truck has no lights and sirens and has to follow normal traffic laws which delayed the response.   

"The response was such "cluster f**k,”  said one officer.  "Nobody got there in time.” 
"We could have gotten there in time,” the officer said.  

Following the incident HRP had a meeting with senior PEP management where the vehicle issue came up once again.  

2005 Ford Escape with more than 144,000 miles broke down three times while responding to the emergency call from officers.  Officers say the city vehicles impeded their ability to help their colleagues in time.

After the meeting officers at the PEP command were informed by Michael Dockett, Assistant Commissioner for Urban Park Service, and Edwin Rodriguez PEP Inspector,   that HPR said,  “There’s nothing we can do, its an HRP matter.’ 

Not true say officers who point out that HPR is in violation of their contract.  

For years the condition of PEP vehicles has been a major point of contention among officers. Officers say the issues has been brought up with no action.

"But this time people got hurt. This time two officers got beat up with nobody to get there in time to help.”  

"He picked up a two-by-four piece of wood and starting beating them,” an officer said. 

The city’s response - they took away the dangerous vehicle with 144,00 miles and replaced it with a golf cart.  

"So now the only car we have is a delivery truck with no light package. We can’t even transport prisoners in it. That’s is all we have. It's bad enough we can’t respond. This is where the terrorist attack happened.

"You can’t make this up. Nobody cares.” 

 (Photos By: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge

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