NEW YORK —Three homeless vagrants caught on viral video attacking a cop on a lower Manhattan subway platform will now face criminal charges after an outcry, law enforcement sources said Wednesday.
Two of the men who allegedly menaced NYPD Officer Syed Ali, an Army combat veteran, in the East Broadway station about 10:30 p.m. Sunday will be charged with rioting and obstructing governmental administration, while a third will face attempted assault charges.
The NYPD initially opted to charge them only with non-criminal local law violations —laying on the platform. On Tuesday night, a spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said they wouldn’t be prosecuted for that offense.
But following a meeting Wednesday between NYPD officials and prosecutors, the agencies opted to change course, the sources said. All five men involved in the attack are being sought.
In a statement, the NYPD said following a review they found the five men weren’t initially charged with a crime, but taken to the hospital because of extreme drunkenness. After their release, the men immediately returned to the station and were arrested for lying on the platform, a local law violation. Prosecutors declined to push for criminal charges.
“At the time of the arrest for the Local Law on Dec. 24, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office was not made aware of the attempted assault of the police officer that took place the prior night on 12-23-18,” the NYPD said.
The eye-popping video of the encounter has been viewed more than four million times on Twitter.
On Tuesday, Vance spokesman Danny Frost pointed out that because police didn’t charge the men with attacking Ali, prosecutors couldn’t charge them with a crime. The office hasn’t prosecuted sleeping on a platform since March 2016 under a joint policy agreed on by the mayor and the police commissioner.
The decision infuriated the police unions. “There’s no telling how much damage these mopes would have done to that courageous police officer had he not been equipped to handle them. Had it gone the other way we might have had a seriously injured or dead police officer,” Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said Tuesday. “It’s wrong that they were not charged for attacking him. The District Attorney’s job is to prosecute crimes, not to act like a social advocate.”
Ali encountered the men at the East Broadway station Sunday night when a woman approached him and said a group of homeless men were harassing her. When Ali told them to leave, they began menacing him.
Cellphone video captured Ali using a baton and his feet to keep the men at bay as they came at him, one by one. One of the men fell onto the tracks. Ali may have saved the man’s life by calling for MTA officials to cut power to the third rail —before he radioed for backup.
Police took the five men —Oseas Garcia, 32, Juan Munez, 27, Raul Ruiz, 29. Elisoe Alvarez Santos, 36 and Leobardo Alvarado, 31 —into custody, at first processing them as intoxicated emotionally disturbed people.
After the fight, one of the men mugged for a camera from his hospital bed, belting out a tune, video obtained by the Daily News shows. All five returned to the station after they were released without being charged.
Cops then rounded them up for lying on the platform, but they were released again when the DA declined to prosecute.
Ali’s cool-headed handling of the incident won praise from the NYPD Muslim Officers Society, of which he is a member.
Ali, an Army reservist, has been deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan and saw combat in Iraq in 2008. He made headlines last year when he spoke out in The New York Times, saying he felt he was racially profiled when he was detained for hours for extra screening at Kennedy Airport by Customs and Border Protection.