Unarmed Man Charged With Assault Because NYC Police Shot At Him And Hit Random Pedestrians

from the NYPD:-Times-Square-is-the-hottest-third-person-shooter-on-the-market dept

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

An emotionally disturbed but unarmed man walks into heavy traffic near Times Square. Police officers arrive on the scene and try to apprehend him. The unarmed man reaches into his pocket, prompting police to open fire in a crowded area. Man is unwounded but two bystanders are shot.

I don’t really remember the middle part of this joke but the punchline is this:

An unarmed, emotionally disturbed man shot at by the police as he was lurching around traffic near Times Square in September has been charged with assault, on the theory that he was responsible for bullet wounds suffered by two bystanders, according to an indictment unsealed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Wednesday.

While you’re letting that sink in, here are some more details.

Initially Mr. Broadnax was arrested on misdemeanor charges of menacing, drug possession and resisting arrest. But the Manhattan district attorney’s office persuaded a grand jury to charge Mr. Broadnax with assault, a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years. Specifically, the nine-count indictment unsealed on Wednesday said Mr. Broadnax “recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death.”

“The defendant is the one that created the situation that injured innocent bystanders,” said an assistant district attorney, Shannon Lucey.

Here are some more details from the original coverage of the incident.

The police arrived and the crowd grew. The hulking man continued on, ignoring the officers’ commands while eluding capture. Then the man reached into his pants pocket, withdrawing his hand as if it were a gun, the police said, and pretended to shoot at some of the officers.

As Scott Greenfield points out, this descriptive wording is a prime example of Creative Writing 101 (Law Enforcement Edition).

Note the language of the article. “Hulking” man. “Withdrawing his hand as if it were a gun.” These aren’t the words of a news account, but the language of justification and excuses.

Broadnax didn’t even have a gun, as officers plainly saw before opening fire. He had a Metrocard in his hand, and no matter how hulkingly he pointed it at officers, it still didn’t turn into a weapon capable of wounding other people. His weaving around in traffic was potentially dangerous, but more to himself than others.

Returning once again to the “language of justification and excuses” deployed by the DA’s office: someone wandering around in traffic in New York City is hardly creating a “grave risk of death.” NYC has plenty of pedestrian traffic, not all of which crosses only at the corners. The man certainly created a “disturbance” but the shots fired by the responding officers created the only injuries. And yet, it will be the man shot at (and missed) who will pay for the mistakes of the officers.

The narrative being pushed (back at the time of the incident and again by the DA’s office) is that the officers had no choice but to risk firing shots in a crowded area because the man wouldn’t cooperate (and menaced officers with a Metrocard). But recordings of the incident suggest the cops actually had many more options are their disposal.

There are no doubt times when shots must be fired, and there are no doubt times when a bullet will strike a bystander despite the best, and most competent, efforts of police. But the video of this, taken by a bystander who was not shot, shows a great many cops in the area before the two cops shot at Broadnax, and makes it difficult to understand why the newspapers don’t question why all those cops couldn’t manage to take down one big crazy guy without shooting up the bystanders.

The video Scott Greenfield posted back in September no longer exists. But this video shows a swarm of NYPD officers attempting to apprehend Broadnax before the shots are fired.

Broadnax was finally subdued by a single officer with a Taser but not before two pedestrians had been shot in an effort to ensure their safety. Holding the arrestee responsible for the bad decisions (and worse aim) of two cops basically sends the message to officers that irresponsible gun usage is perfectly fine, as long as the intentions are pure. If in the future officers hit other bystanders by firing in crowded areas (as they have in the past), the blame will be passed along to the intended target for “forcing” the police to make unwise decisions.

[Postscript: Ken White at Popehat has more thoughts on the NYPD’s resemblance to Ike “Don’t Make Me Hit You” Turner.]

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Comments on “Unarmed Man Charged With Assault Because NYC Police Shot At Him And Hit Random Pedestrians”

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Anonymous Coward says:

another example of incompetent people who, once they put on a police uniform, think that they have the right to do whatever they please, including firing loaded weapons, in crowded situations, rather than tackle an unarmed man to the ground. and please dont tell me that he was running away, or anywhere else so fast that they couldn’t catch him?
it also shows exactly how bad they are when it comes to hitting their target. i was of the opinion that annual shooting ‘exams’ had to be performed to ensure those using a firearm were competent enough to do so. if correct, how did these manage to get through?

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

When you were a kid just starting school and as you progressed in those first few years we were always taught that the Policeman was our friend and was their to help us.

Now more than ever nowadays it seems the opposite when you have cases like this where due process is out the window and your right matter not one iota.

It seems now that covering up police misdeeds and the blue wall of silence are at the forefront. This is the reality. The bad thing is that the Policeman’s word carries more weight with the court than some average joe and even more so if you have any kind of a criminal record.

If it wasn’t for cameras recording and these types of events being reported , the average joe wouldn’t even have a chance.

The mere fact that they will charge you (whether you are guilty or not) is a travesty in itself as the mantra now seems to be we will charge them and make the story fir to the event innocent or not.

It is almost now if you call the Police you had better have someone recording it for YOUR safety and security otherwise you could be behind bars.

I guess teh old days where the police were proud and had integrity is long gone, and you wonder why people have a distrust for the police…. events like this are why.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Police Integrity

Our local cop shop has a good reputation in the community. The are courteous when doing their functions. I have had the pleasure of dealing with them on a number of occasions during somewhat distressing events and they have always risen to the occasion.

I have high praise for them here, even when they have had to pull up the young ones for doing stupid activities, like one of my sons and a mate of his.

Our local churches here pray for them regularly, particularly since ICE has become a scourge in our community. We let them know it as well. They seem to appreciate that someone cares for them and their work and are willing to support them.

I know that there are other areas that do not have the quality of personnel that we have and in those locations the reputation is much lower. The nearest city’s public transport system has their internal enforcement group and the general opinion is that they are a bunch of power hungry, megalomaniac thugs. This opinion has been documented as being well deserved.

Anonymous Coward says:

?The defendant is the one that created the situation that injured innocent bystanders,? said an assistant district attorney, Shannon Lucey

Sounds to me like the NYPD is trying to find ways to take non-criminals and punish them for doing nothing. It’s just raising the bar on “disorderly conduct”, “resisting arrest”, and any other buzzwords cops throw around (in specific cases to try to drum up extra charges and get themselves out of an investigation).

Oblate (profile) says:

"Innocent" bystanders? Are you sure?

How innocent were these bystanders- they might have had cameras, which would make them more dangerous to the police than Mr. Broadnax. If I were them I wouldn’t be surprised to see charges of interfering with police, theft of government property (the bullet that hit each of them), tampering with evidence (where did that third bullet go?), and felony trespassing, among others.

Alternatively, they could be charged following the computer “hacker-security” model: since these bystanders have shown how poor the marksmanship of these police is, they must now pay for rudimentary firearms training for the police. If not for the action of these bystanders (getting shot) the lack of skill and proper training would never have been a problem for the police.

Sampson (profile) says:

Throwing bottles at the wrong department...

I think everyone is pointing at the wrong department here.
As mentioned in the article:
“the Manhattan district attorney?s office persuaded a grand jury to charge Mr. Broadnax with assault…”

If your Justice system is corrupt then you don’t have a hope in hell of getting a normal response to any incidents.

Stephen says:

times square

That’s the corner of 42nd and 8th with the Chevy’s on the NE corner, Duane Reade on the NW and the Port Authority Bus Terminal on the SW. It’s the far west edge of Times Square. Any one who says he was a danger weaving through traffic has not seen how everyone walks on that corner–and every corner in NYC.

I think that that makes it 10 people shot by cops in Midtown in the last year, one person shot by a non-cop.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

A Parallel Case in Manchu China

I have been reading Jonathan Spence’s _The Death of Woman Wang_ (1978) about crime and punishment in Seventeenth-Century China. There is one case described which is partly parallel to this shooting. On July 6, 1670, a man named Chen Kuo Hsaing marched into a village school, seized one of the little boys, dragged him outside and onto the steps of a temple, and methodically, and with the maximum possible brutality, beat him to death with a club. The boy was the son of Chen Kuo Hsaing’s deceased cousin, and the killer, having thoroughly misunderstood the law, thought that killing the boy would make him legally entitled to inherent the boy’s family farm, which was in the hands of the boy’s mother and guardian. He claimed that the boy’s deceased father had killed Chen Kuo Hsaing’s father during the Manchu invasion in 1643, nearly thirty years before, and that killing the boy was just a form of self-defense. Of course, no one else had ever heard of this supposed earlier murder, and the cousins had lived peacefully for those nearly thirty years. The magistrate was grimly amused at this story, and had Chen Kuo Hsaing executed by garroting.

The Seventeenth Century was a hard time in North China, a time of failing governments and barbarian invasions and bandit uprisings and earthquakes and famines. The harsh conditions brought out all the submerged animality of deprived peasants. It was the kind of time and place where sadistic killers could not conceive of anyone objecting to their killings. These officers in New York obviously said to themselves that they had always wanted to shoot into a crowd of innocent bystanders, and that if there was a crazy street person present, they could do it and claim self-defense. The Twenty-First century is a hard time in New York…

ChrisB (profile) says:


So let me get this straight? Everyone on this board thinks it is okay for a deranged man to antagonize cops? So if he did pull a gun and start shooting, you’d be okay with a few dead civilians? While the cops were doing what: trying to talk him down, karate chop him, tackle him, or maybe just shoot for the knee? Give me a break. This anti-cop 20/20 hindsight nonsense is typically of Tim. Maybe 1 in 10,000 encounters with cops go wrong, so all cops are bad, right? Pathetic.

Baron von Robber says:

Re: Really

If he’s deranged, then intent to antagonize. He’s derranged.

But he didn’t pull a gun, ergo, a gun to return fire was never neccessary. But no, gun-happy cops fire without thought to the crowd. Brilliant.

But at least one right thinking cop did bring him down with a taser that should.have.been.done.in.the.first.place.you.moron.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Really

Thankyou, I am glad someone here has some objectivity, but this IS Techdirt, a Government hate site its exactly what you expect here.

There is no such thing as ‘unbiased’ or ‘two-sides of every story’, it is has to do with the Government its automatically “THEY ARE EVIL”.

what were these people doing there anyway, rubbernecking ?? standing around video it ?

oh there is a crazy man and some cops with guns “LETS GO THERE !!!!” no, lets not run away and take cover and let the police do their job. Lets go there and video it and put ourselves in harms way. The people who were shot should be charged for stupidity !!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Really

There’s always one(or two in this case)…

Had he presented a legitimate threat to the lives of those around him, lethal force might have been justified, though even then they had options other than opening fire in a crowded area.

Instead, they opted for lethal force, firing three shots, hitting two bystanders, and completely missing their target. If the idea was to cause more harm, then they succeed with flying colors. If however they were trying to contain and prevent harm, then I’d say they failed spectacularly.

Now, on it’s own this would just be a case of lousy judgement on the part of the officers, obviously they should have gone with non-lethal methods(what finally took the man down was a taser, so they did have the right tools available, they just didn’t use them properly), where it gets completely ridiculous is then charging the one they were shooting at with assault, a felony level charge, as though it was somehow his fault the cops on the scene were so trigger happy two people got shot.

As the popehat coverage of the incident points out, this is ‘abusive spouse’ type thinking, where it’s somehow the victim’s fault for the aggressor’s actions, as the agressor is unable to be mature enough to be responsible enough for their own actions, blaming others for ‘forcing’ them to do something.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Really

what the hell is a “legitimate threat ” and how do you know that he did not have a gun in his pocket ? or a knife?

he was a threat, that is clear, it was not known if he was armed, but considering the large number of armed people in the US it is only sensible to assume he is.

so he was a threat and the idiots who were hanging around rubbernecking deserve to be shot in crossfire, because they put themselves into that situation.

The crazy man was charged because his actions led to the actions of the police, if he was not acting in a threatening manner the police would not have acted, but he did, so the police did.

How brain dead do you have to be to hand around a crazy man and police with guns?

oh there are some cops with guns, and a crazy man, it must be safe to go there and hang around and get your camera out and take some “happy snaps” !!!… brain dead does not even come close to explaining the actions of some people !!!

DCL says:

Re: Re: Re: Really

So what the heck were all those people doing on the street in the first place! Don’t they know there are people with guns in the world?!?!? I know you are just trolling but i have to say something.

Granted I will give you that people are stupidly drawn to crazy events like that but take that away and the street was still too crowded to fire off shots like that. And if people would have moved into stores to get away….well bullets penetrate glass really well. If the cop had hit a 12 year in the head and killed them how different would you feel?

As long as we are discussing long shots for who is to blame… the bad actions of the police in the last few years has been very public and so a lot of that current draw has been increased because people want to get it on film and get their few minutes of fame.

in general I think your view and the police view is too paranoid… not everybody has a gun, not everybody who does something whacky is a threat to all of humanity. Like it was said before some people just take out their wallets and that doesn’t justify getting shot. I am all for police taking precautions to protect themselves but if you are that afraid of being shot to the point you shoot first with no gun in sight then you shouldn’t be a cop.

A gun is a tool… some people use tools to do great things and others just well… just suck at using them and shouldn’t rely on them in their daily lives or vocations. The cop behind the gun has the responsibility to use that tool correctly, but because of the blue line, militarization and the general trend of society to pass off personal responsibility to others that good judgement of when to fire a weapon is becoming less common.

And what if he had a gun? Just having a gun does not mean you will use it. If he had a toy gun visible in his pocket does that mean the cops can start spraying with a MP5 to stop him and later blame him for the multiple deaths? Where does the line stop? If the end justifies the means what is the end what the end the cops are trying to get to here? Self preservation at the cost of innocent bystanders? If so then reread my previous paragraphs.

On a different but related note… people need to stop using the term “non-lethel” options since they really are “less than lethal”. There are plenty of examples of people that have died from Tazers or pepper spray or being at the wrong end of a police baton.

MRMcCartney says:

Re: Really

So let me get this straight? So it’s OK to shoot at, and hopefully kill, a deranged man (mentally ill, and unarmed), because he was ANTAGONIZING police? Who do you people think you are? If a mentally ill and unarmed person was to confront me and I shot him, I would go to jail that minute. But that is OK because you have a badge! If you can’t do something without a badge, you should NOT be able to do it with a badge.

DudeWasHere (profile) says:

Re: Really

I think you are missing the point here. It is not that all cops are bad (some may feel that way) but that the system attempts to hide the error in judgement by some individual police officers by passing the blame to someone else, instead of assigning the blame properly and correcting the situation through better training and discipline. The police are suppose to be professional and in control at all times. There is the difference. Police are only supposed to use deadly force when it is safe and prudent to do so. They lost control of the situation here. Were they totally in the wrong in this situation, no. Were they bad cops, probably not. Could they have dealt with the situation better? YES! The real issue here is that they failed to control the crowd. They failed to properly assess the threat, and finally only those with a clear sight line and low risk of collateral damage should have fired, and that means having the strength and professionalism to NOT pull the trigger if necessary. And yes the crowd bears some responsibility as does the perpetrator. The morons in the crowd that thought it was safe and prudent to stand with the perpetrator bewteen them and the police all deserve darwin awards, or at least honourable mentions.

ADyslexicWalksIntoABra (profile) says:

Why use real bullets?

About 5 years ago, around 7am, there was a clearly deranged man staggering down Market Street in SF. This is pretty normal, save for the 8 inch long chef’s knife he was waving around that was rightfully freaking out the few people up so early. I watched as maybe 10 police surrounded him, warned him to drop the knife a few times and then counted down from 3…2…1

And then the shot him.

With a bean bag from a shotgun type weapon.

He went down, was handcuffed, and then was taken away in an ambulance.

I know we are very suspicious of police here, but this seemed like a totally appropriate handling of a potentially dangerous situation.

Shooting at someone with real bullets in the middle of a crowded area is stupid. Police have beanbags, tasers, and pepper spray for a reason. And if any of those had been used, this would be a non-event.

Koby says:

Other States

I’m aware that there are other states besides NY in which the perpetrator is responsible for the actions of the police officers. While I’m not familiar with NYC laws, it’s likely that they have something similar. The bottom line is that if someone does something stupid, such as jump around in traffic when the cops are out to make an arrest, then the perp will be held legally responsible instead of the cops.

Anonymous Coward says:

in 2011 176 police officers lost their life while on duty, 67 of them were killed from gunfire, that’s more than 1 a week.

did you hear the story about the police officer who did not react immediately and take action, but waited to see if it was a credit card or a gun, he was killed because it was a gun.

on average more than once a week the person who reaches into their pocket and pulls out something IS A GUN, and the police officer is shot by that gun.

The police officer has to live with that risk every day, the crazed man only has to do it once.

so if I am a cop in America, and someone pulls ‘something’ out of their pocket and makes actions like he is shooting you, I am not going to take a few extra seconds and triple check if it is a gun or something else, I am going to shot (at) that idiot, and if someone is stupid enough to be hanging around there and rubbernecking I don’t give a shit about them either, if they are too stupid to get out of harms way, that is their problem not mine..

I guess I don’t have the same level of hatred for anything “Government” as most here.

BernardoVerda says:

Re: Re:

Police officers have a difficult and sometimes dangerous job, often under the scrutiny of the general public.

But cab drivers are actually much more likely to be wounded, or killed, by violence committed with a knife or gun or other weapon, on the job, than police officers are.

We admire diligent and professional officers of the Law, and depend on them in many ways. Police are granted special permissions and allowances to enable them to do their job properly. But at the same time as we grant these privileges — because we grant them these privileges — we demand the aforesaid competence and professionalism, and inevitably and rightly despise those who act like thugs or clowns, yet expect to still receive special treatment and undue allowance for bad behaviour..

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Time for a little perspective.

In the same year, those involved in crop production(farming basically), suffered 245 fatalities, animal production 148(124 from cattle ranching alone), mining 155, construction 738, manufacturing 327, food and beverage stores 86(55 of which were from shootings, meaning the odds are higher that working in that field will get you shot vs police work), truck transportation 485.

Put plainly, police work isn’t even close to the most dangerous job a person can take, and yet somehow they’re supposed to get a pass when they pull and gun and shoot someone, intentionally or not, in the line of duty?

Source statistics for those curious:

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

so if I am a cop in America, and someone pulls ‘something’ out of their pocket and makes actions like he is shooting you, I am not going to take a few extra seconds and triple check if it is a gun or something else, I am going to shot (at) that idiot, and if someone is stupid enough to be hanging around there and rubbernecking I don’t give a shit about them either, if they are too stupid to get out of harms way, that is their problem not mine..

1) Why do you have your gun drawn in the first place (before he pulled anything out of his pockets)? Do you draw your gun in every encounter whether or not shooting the person is justified?

2) Why do you even HAVE a tazer if you aren’t going to use it here?

3) Why can’t you hit where you are aiming? If it HAD been a gun you would have been dead ANYWAY because you missed!

4) Why don’t you just let the crazed man walk around? By your logic, people will automatically get out of his way, and those that don’t deserve whatever they get, right?

5) Why are they in harm’s way? The guy is unarmed. Maybe some of them even know that.

6) If you “don’t give a shit” about people, why are you even responding to the call, and for that matter why are you an officer in the first place?

7) How would those rules apply to other people? If I, not a police officer but perhaps in a dangerous line of work like night clerk at a frequently-robbed convenience store, see someone take something out of their pockets, can I shoot them before I see what it is? Or do you want a special rule just for you that lets you shoot people first and ask questions later?

8) According to Popehat, “Overall the NYPD usually requires about 331 rounds to hit 54 targets, of which 14 will be innocent bystanders, 24 will be dogs, and 16 will be people the NYPD was actually aiming at.” Given those numbers (out of every 30 people shot by police 14 are bystanders), should you really be shooting at people who are not CLEARLY armed when you’re literally in Times Square?

DudeWasHere (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And this is why you should not be a police officer. You obviously do not have the discipline or control to handle the job as required. Not everyone does, and there are those individual police officers who deal with these risks every day, living with the risks. Not taking the shot unless absolutely necessary. They are the ones we do not hear about. They are the ones we need.

Ramon Creager (profile) says:

"they had no choice"

And it’s buddy, “time was running out”. This is the language used to squelch debate and justify the unjustifiable. Why was there no choice? What does it mean “time was running out”? Who makes such a decision? It is Orwellian (and dangerous) to blame the powerless (a mentally ill man posing no real threat in this case) for the poor decisions of those who hold all the cards.

But I get it. The police can never be wrong. The police can never be held accountable. And they are sooo misunderstood, such a difficult job.

And, anyone else disturbed that a grand jury should buy this juvenile argument?

Bengie says:


I can kind of understand where they’re coming from. If you do something illegal, like walking into heavy traffic in NY, and someone gets injured as a direct or indirect result, you take responsibility.

Kind of like if someone breaks into another person’s house, with no intent of harm, but the scare an elderly person and they have a heart attack, those thieves can be charged with man slaughter.

I still question trying to throw the book at this person and get them on every technicality for the sake of revenge.

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