VIDEO: NYPD Officer Beaten Into A Coma, Cop Criticized For Shooting Attacker
Brooklyn, NY – New York police have released bodycam footage that captured the moment when a suspect violently attacked a veteran officer and beat him in the face with a metal chair as he was making an arrest (video below).
New York Police Officer Lesly Lafontant, a well-respected, 21-year veteran-of-the-force, was able to fire six rounds as he was being attacked by 33-year-old Kwesi Ashun, according to the New York Post.
At least one bullet struck Ashun in the head, killing him.
Officer Lafontant was rushed to Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, where he remained in a medically-induced coma for several days.
The events that led to the attack on the veteran officer began at approximately 5:40 p.m. on Oct. 25, when a panhandler, 26-year-old Dewayne Hawkes, entered the Gold Mine Nail Salon on Mother Gaston Boulevard, the New York Post reported.
Hawkes asked to use the business’s bathroom, but was turned away, according to the New York Daily News.
Undeterred, Hawkes made his way to the nail salon’s kitchen, locked the door, and began urinating on the floor.
According to the criminal complaint, one employee “heard the sound of the defendant urinating in said kitchen, and observed urine on the floor of the kitchen when defendant left.”
Employees spotted Officer Lafontant and his partner passing by in their patrol vehicle, so they flagged them down.
Bodycam footage showed the officers as they made contact with an employee and Hawkes inside the front door of the business.
“He’s drunk!” an employee declared after the officer asked Hawkes for his identification.
“I didn’t wanna piss on the street – I would’ve got locked up!” the suspect argued.
Hawkes then began swearing at the employee and demanded to see her “green card,” the video showed.
The situation escalated to the point that the officers decided to place the suspect under arrest, at which time he began arguing and trying to pull away from them.
Security footage from a building across the street showed Ashun and other passersby as they peered through the shop windows at the brawl occurring inside.
A moment later, Ashun burst into the salon and began punching Officer Lafontant in the face with his fists in an unprovoked attack, New York Police Detective Martin Brownlee said in the video release.
The officers’ bodycams were knocked off during the struggle, police said.
Officer Lafontant’s rookie partner deployed his Taser, but it was not effective.
Ashun then slammed a metal chair into Officer Lafontant’s face and head repeatedly, causing “serious physical injury,” Det. Brownlee said.
That’s when Officer Lafontant fired his duty weapon, killing his attacker.
Ashun, who was hit by four of the rounds, was pronounced dead at the scene.
His assault on Officer Lafontant lasted just 12 seconds, Det. Brownlee said.
The 53-year-old officer suffered multiple orbital fractures, as well as an eye injury and a broken cheekbone during the violent assault, the New York Post reported at the time.
He was placed into a medically-induced coma for several days, and has since been released from the hospital, Det. Brownlee said.
Hawkes fled the scene with handcuffs dangling from one wrist while the officers were fighting with Ashun, the New York Daily News reported.
He was apprehended by additional officers a short while later, and was subsequently charged with disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, obstructing governmental administration, and resisting arrest, according to WNBC.
Hawkes also had a warrant out for his arrest at the time of the incident.
It was not the first time Ashun had attacked a New York police officer, the New York Post reported.
In October of 2004, he sliced Officer James Sinnott’s face with a knife, cutting him from his ear to his neck in another unprovoked attack, the New York Post reported.
Officer Sinnott had been doing nothing more than walking past him in the moments before the altercation.
After slashing the officer, Ashun walked away.
Officers used pepper spray and batons to take him into custody, and ultimately transported him to the hospital as an “emotionally disturbed person,” according to the New York Daily News.
A second officer, New York Police Officer Brian Risano, was also injured during the brawl.
The case against Ashun was sealed, and the disposition is unknown.
Just 11 days before he violently attacked Officer Lafontant, Ashun was evaluated by the New York Health Department’s “Mobile Crisis Team,” his sister told the New York Post.
Ashun allegedly had a history of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but the team determined that he was not a risk to himself or others.
“He struggled with mental illness and we tried desperately to get help for him to no avail,” Ashun’s sister, Ama Bartley, told the New York Post. “Eleven days later, this is what happens…We tried, we really tried to get him help. He was a beautiful soul. He was just battling some heavy things.”
State Assemblywoman Latrice Walker described Ashun as a “peaceful young man.”
“I interacted with him moments before this took place. He asked me if I would be interested in buying the T-shirts he was selling,” Walker told the New York Post. “He was promoting a business he was trying to kick off.”
"Our community is definitely traumatized today because this was a senseless death,” the assemblywoman told WNBC.
Ashun’s friend, Kabar Walker, said that Ashun was not a threat to anyone, and alleged that the officer’s use of deadly force was “excessive,” the New York Daily News reported.
“He was less than threat than a person who had a knife or a gun," he told the paper. "You [also] have [a] partner to help you too, to restrain him in some way, without having to use deadly force on him.”
Kabar said that if Ashun had some kind of marker to identify him as a mentally ill individual, the officer might have tried harder not to use deadly force as he was being bludgeoned in the face.
“Maybe they can show some kind of wristband or color band on they ankle so when the cops see these things on these guys they can think twice,” he suggested, according to WCBS.
You can watch bodycam and security footage of the officers’ encounter with Hawkes and Ashun in the video below: