The night of September 14, 2013, began about as unremarkably as it could for Sahar Khoshakhlagh. She had some family in town — two cousins from overseas — and they had unremarkable plans. Dinner at the National near Times Square, catch a movie. A girls’ night out.
Around 9 p.m., the Saturday-night crush of humanity at the Crossroads of the World was also pretty unremarkable. The place was flooded with tourists, like it always is at that hour. The group had just finished dinner, and they were threading their way through the crowd on Eighth Avenue, heading back to the Marriott Hotel where Khoshakhlagh’s family was staying, when a shot rang out. It wasn’t immediately clear where from, but another quickly followed. The crowd surged.
Khoshakhlagh looked up to see an NYPD officer standing in the street, lit up by the neon glare of a sign over the Chevy’s restaurant. He was reaching for his gun.
The rest happened fast.
“There were people screaming and running towards us,” Khoshakhlagh remembers. “Then I realized, ‘Oh my god, we’re in the middle of a shooting.’ ”
She grabbed her cousin’s hand. They started running, just trying to put distance between themselves and whatever was unfolding on 42nd Street, pulled along in the tide with all the others escaping the scene.
At some point, Khoshakhlagh felt a blow strike her backside. She didn’t know what it was. It felt “like a hammer,” she remembers. She stumbled but kept running.
When they finally arrived back at the hotel, an employee there noticed the blood seeping through Khoshakhlagh’s green and blue striped dress. It was only then she realized she’d been shot.
In media-saturated Manhattan, news quickly began to trickle out about what had just unfolded on one of the busiest blocks in America. After a momentary encounter on 42nd Street, two NYPD officers had opened fire at Glenn Broadnax, a 35-year-old black man from Brooklyn. He’d attracted the attention of beat cops when he began running through traffic, jumping in front of cars in an apparent suicide attempt.
Police later said that after a cat-and-mouse game, Broadnax had reached into his pants pocket and removed an object, briefly “pointing” it at the responding officers. They thought it was a gun, and fired three rounds. After the shots, and a tussle with cops, Broadnax was hit with a Taser and arrested.
When the dust settled, a few things became clear. First, Broadnax was unarmed; the object police had thought was a gun was, in fact, a wallet. Second, Broadnax seemed to be in the midst of a mental health crisis. He told investigators immediately after his arrest that he was having auditory hallucinations, hearing the “voices of his dead relatives.”
The third fact that emerged was that the officers who opened fire had missed their target. Broadnax was unscathed. The bullets meant for him had instead struck Khoshakhlagh and a second victim, 59-year-old Theodora Ray, who was getting dinner at a food cart on 42nd Street, as she did almost every night.
The incident took place in the early days of what has since become a roiling debate about the use of force against black men, by police and pretenders alike. Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, had been acquitted on murder charges a few months before, giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. But the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of police officers, which galvanized the movement in earnest, wouldn’t come until the following summer.
Like those cases, the Broadnax incident, at least initially, represented a single moment in time — a series of decisions by specific police officers, acting under pressure, that brought up now familiar questions about training and implicit racial bias. But what followed was something else entirely. For Broadnax, it was the beginning of a fifteen-month ordeal that would place him at the intersection of some of the legal system’s most entrenched dysfunctions: its pervasive violence, its inability to contend with mental illness, and the power of prosecutors to pressure defendants and keep them in jail until they confess. For Khoshakhlagh, it would mark the start of an advocacy role she never could have envisioned for herself.
But all that was still to come. For the moment, Khoshakhlagh knew only that she’d been hit by a police officer’s bullet. And for her, there was an air of farce about it all. In the ambulance on her way to Roosevelt Hospital, surrounded by medical personnel, she had a horrifying realization: The night she got shot in Times Square was also the first night she had chosen to wear Spanx. “Of all the times to wear spandex,” she reflects, “of course I get shot in the ass.”
Khoshakhlagh, who’s cheery and self-deprecating and seems constitutionally incapable of uttering the word “buttocks” without having to stifle a grin, spent much of the night cracking jokes with the hospital staff, and with the police officers who soon showed up at her bedside. She’d sustained a graze injury, essentially — bloody and painful, but not life-threatening. It had been a very close call.
Khoshakhlagh says her habit of making jokes in times of crisis is a family trait. When she moved to the U.S. as a child in the 1980s, from Tabriz, Iran, it was to escape the devastation of that country’s fierce, nearly decade-long war with neighboring Iraq. When the city was shelled by Iraqi forces, her family would gather in the basement, with Khoshakhlagh pretending it was fireworks she heard outside.
Coping mechanisms eventually became something of a professional specialty for Khoshakhlagh: In an uncanny coincidence, she is a psychologist; as the program director at an assistive housing facility for mentally ill adults in Brooklyn, she works with men like Broadnax every day.
When he landed in Rikers Island, Broadnax was a man emerging from a terrifying experience, at least according to records shared with the Voice by Broadnax’s sister, Donza Brown. In an interview with a jail counselor three days after the incident, Broadnax said he had no memory of it. The effects, however, lingered; he couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. He was “delusional and distracted,” the counselor noted, and he was having “racing thoughts.” The Taser police used when he was apprehended had left him feeling as if his “bones and insides” were “cooked,” he told the counselor.
Broadnax had been immediately arraigned on a slate of charges including menacing, resisting arrest, and possession of a controlled substance — all misdemeanors. (Police had found part of a joint in his pocket and what’s described in court papers as methamphetamine “residue” on a dollar bill.) It wasn’t the first time Broadnax had been in trouble with the law. There was a string of petty arrests over the years, along with a few more serious crimes, including convictions for assault and robbery, the latter of which landed him in prison for a four-year stint.
Broadnax’s lawyer, Rigodis Appling, a public defender with the Legal Aid Society, immediately asked for a psychological evaluation. That’s almost a pointless formality, explains Eugene O’Donnell, a former NYPD cop and prosecutor in Queens and Brooklyn, now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice: “Virtually nobody qualifies as insane under New York law.” If a defendant is able to understand the basic role of the attorney and judge, and knows right from wrong, they qualify as competent. “Which is why the prison system is full of mentally ill people,” O’Donnell adds.
Still, the creaky gears of the New York court system had begun to grind. The initial psychological screening would take nearly five weeks, and so Broadnax settled in. Records show that he adjusted fairly quickly, stabilizing and getting along well.
At first, Khoshakhlagh remembers, she’d figured the police in Times Square had a good reason for firing on Broadnax, that they were “trying to chase down the bad guy.” But as she recovered from her injury, she began to follow the stream of media coverage. Most of it focused on the obvious fact that police had opened fire in a crowd, and drew a connection that the NYPD likely didn’t appreciate: Almost exactly a year before, NYPD officers had injured nine innocent bystanders in another midtown shooting. The suspect in that case actually was armed, and had just shot a co-worker, but the incident had prompted debate about when officers should discharge their guns in a densely populated city. “Police Bullets Hit Bystanders, and Questions Rise Yet Again,” read a headline in the Times the day after the Broadnax incident.
The coverage also focused on Broadnax’s mental health, describing him in terms like “deranged” and “crazed.” “He told investigators that he wanted to die,” the Daily News wrote, citing police sources. “He told police he was off his medication and that he heard voices in his head, that people were talking to him.”
When Khoshakhlagh found grainy bystander video, posted to YouTube, that showed Broadnax dodging police before the shooting began, she recognized something in his behavior: fear.
“Anyone could tell this guy was really out of it,” Khoshakhlagh says. “He wasn’t trying to harm anyone. It was really obvious that he was trying to hurt himself.”
It was something Khoshakhlagh had seen many times in her clients. And to her, the reaction by police was exactly the wrong one. They were shouting commands, surrounding Broadnax, moving in a phalanx. It was an approach, she says, almost guaranteed to make the situation worse.
Khoshakhlagh had always had a good relationship with the police. Her clients had their occasional run-ins, and she always respected the difficult job officers do. But to Khoshakhlagh, the Broadnax case showed how mental illness and policing often don’t mix well. Cops are trained to give orders. And with someone like Broadnax, Khoshakhlagh knew, that’s usually going to backfire. According to a Washington Post analysis, about a quarter of police shootings in 2015 involved someone with possible mental illness.
As she began to absorb exactly what had happened — an unarmed man, shot in a situation that, in her view, could have been defused — Khoshakhlagh became increasingly upset. But she was concentrating on healing. She spent a week away from work and gradually tried to get on with her life.
Then, near the end of October, Khoshakhlagh’s attorney got a phone call from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Prosecutors had changed their minds about the case: They now planned to prosecute Broadnax for the bullet wounds sustained by Khoshakhlagh and Ray. Under an unusual theory of law, the prosecution claimed Broadnax’s actions that night in Times Square were so irresponsible, it was as if he himself had pulled the trigger.
The top charge alone — assault in the first degree — was enough to land him in prison for the next twenty-five years.
“I was livid,” Khoshakhlagh remembers, when she learned about the elevated charges. What had been a story about police officers mishandling a chaotic situation became, to her, one of scapegoating a vulnerable man. “I couldn’t live with that,” she says. “I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I knew he was going to be charged with that, for my injury.”
Worse, she would have to testify in front of the grand jury considering the new charges. She didn’t have any choice about it, but she was determined to make two things clear: She did not blame Broadnax for what happened, and Broadnax should not be held culpable for what the police had done.
Guyora Binder, who teaches criminal law at the SUNY University at Buffalo Law School, said it’s hard to see how such charges could possibly fit the case. “In terms of the understood meaning of the legal concepts involved,” Binder tells the Voice, “is this an appropriate use of the law? No.”
For a defendant to be held responsible for an injury he didn’t directly cause, Binder explains, it has to be “foreseeable,” to a reasonable degree, that his conduct would lead to injury. Examples from New York case law include throwing objects from a highway overpass or driving on a sidewalk at high speeds. For Broadnax to reasonably foresee that his actions would lead police to open fire and hit bystanders is “preposterous,” in Binder’s view: “You have this mentally ill man, who is confused, and even if he were sane there would be no reason to assume that officers would start shooting on a crowded street.”
Bennett Capers, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, says the “depraved indifference” standard is an extremely difficult one for a prosecutor to meet, because it relies on the individual’s frame of mind in the moment.
“The defendant had to have been aware that there was a substantial risk to other people. Not whether he should have been aware,” Capers emphasizes. “They literally have to prove that he was aware of risk to other people, and chose to disregard that risk.”
Even with a defendant deemed competent to stand trial, per the fairly low threshold that entails, it would still be extremely difficult to prove that kind of mental state, Capers says: “This would be a hard case even if he had pulled out a gun.”
The D.A.’s theory, then, would seem to represent a gross overreach — almost impossible to prove, given the circumstances. Even so, neither professor is surprised that the charges came down the way they did. As Binder says, when police are involved in incidents like this — high-profile and potentially embarrassing mishaps — there can be pressure to ensure that someone, anyone, catches an indictment. “It’s not surprising that Mr. Broadnax was charged,” Binder says. “This is something prosecutors do when police behave irresponsibly. But it’s pretty shameful.
“It’s pretty obvious that they were doing this to protect the officers,” he adds.
O’Donnell, the former NYPD officer and prosecutor in Queens and Brooklyn, says politics can certainly factor in to the decision of whether and how to charge a given defendant. He notes that there was likely a great deal of pressure to get results on this case. A shooting in Times Square, he says, especially one in which bystanders are hurt, is by definition a high-profile case. And those high stakes can lead prosecutors to push the boundaries of the law.
“[Prosecutors] are more creative in a case where they think there’s some interest to be protected,” O’Donnell says. “They’ll stretch the way they define these things, or the way they punish them.” On the other hand, he notes, a D.A. may be justified in aggressively punishing dangerous behavior in a place like Times Square; it is a busy location, so maybe there should be less tolerance.
But even with a case that they seem destined to lose, O’Donnell points out, prosecutors’ simply filing hefty charges can mean powerful leverage. “Their big tool, what makes them 800-pound gorillas, is their ability to put a hurting on you,” O’Donnell says. ” ‘You want to take this to trial? You’re going to go to prison.’… That’s an awesome power.”
Khoshakhlagh, for her part, wasn’t a happy witness. From the beginning, she says, she felt manipulated by the D.A.’s office. She remembers how one of the officials in the room showed her a copy of the bystander video, ostensibly to refresh her memory, just before she gave her testimony. “They kept showing the YouTube video over and over and over,” Khoshakhlagh says, clapping her hands lightly for emphasis. “I would hear the shot, and they kept rewinding it.”
She hadn’t witnessed any part of the actual shooting, so it’s hard to discern what they were after. But Khoshakhlagh has a theory. “I think they were definitely trying to shake me up,” she says. “I don’t think they knew that I had a background in psychology, but I knew what they were doing. It was very obvious. It just felt like they were playing dirty.”
Not long after Broadnax was successfully indicted, Khoshakhlagh’s lawyer filed a “notice of claim” against the NYPD and the city, the first step in filing a lawsuit. She thought it might give her some leverage, and maybe allow her to push for better mental health crisis training at the NYPD. She also wrote an open letter to newly elected mayor Bill de Blasio and newly installed commissioner Bill Bratton.
“I was trying to make meaning for myself,” Khoshakhlagh says. “It was like the full circle: Here’s this guy with mental illness. He was actually trying to commit suicide.” And in the melee, who should get hit, out of 8 million people in New York City, but someone who actually recognizes exactly what he’s going through? “I mean, how odd is that?” she asks. To her, the whole situation seemed like more than a coincidence.
For Appling, Broadnax’s lawyer, the motivation behind the D.A.’s aggressive charging was obvious.
“The police shot their guns in the middle of Times Square. Full of tourists. At 9 p.m.,” says Appling. Somebody had to take the blame for that. “Absolutely,” she says. “This entire thing was to deflect from the police shooting people in Times Square.”
During Broadnax’s first court appearance after the new charges had been filed, Appling pushed for his immediate release on bail. According to Fred Osher, a doctor who studies the interaction between the justice system and mentally ill defendants for the Council on State Governments, it’s not uncommon for people with mental illness to languish longer in pretrial detention than other defendants. In a study his organization carried out, defendants with mental illness designations spent twice as long in detention, on average, as others did.
“Something about having a mental illness gets you stuck in these systems,” Osher says, adding that it’s not clear exactly what that is. It can’t be attributed to the time it takes for mental evaluations, he says. But whatever the reasons, time spent inside can be especially difficult for people struggling with mental health issues.
“It is a churning, hectic, chaotic environment,” Osher says, and being deprived of relationships with the outside can be especially destructive for people with psychological difficulties.
Broadnax was given a $100,000 bond, a sum his family couldn’t hope to scrape together. He had effectively been denied bail, relegated to Rikers for the foreseeable future.
Jail records show that, with such serious consequences hanging over his head, Broadnax was becoming increasingly distraught. He told jail staff that he was having nightmares about his brother Anthony’s murder, decades in the past, and he fretted about how the ordeal would affect his family relationships. He was also upset that he was being blamed for injuries he hadn’t caused. “I’ve been railroaded,” Broadnax told a staff member at Rikers on November 11.
For the next year, Appling played a game of high-stakes chicken with the prosecution. She felt the plea deal they were offering — seven years in prison and five years’ supervision post-release — was wildly unreasonable. She was aiming to get the assistant district attorney leading the case, Robert Walker, to reduce the charges, betting that his office didn’t actually want to take the case to trial. She thought they’d have a very hard time getting a conviction with the theory of law they were operating on. But she also assumed they probably didn’t want to draw attention to what she considered dubious charges against a mentally ill man. (The Manhattan D.A.’s office declined to make Walker available for an interview.)
“This sounds like overcharging to force a plea bargain,” Binder, the professor at Buffalo, says. Sticking with the felony counts not only deflected blame from the NYPD, it might also have bought the department some time. If they were later quietly reduced, Binder says, “some of the public interest in the case would have died down.”
In January, after Broadnax had been in Rikers for nearly four months, Appling filed a detailed brief to have the charges against him tossed, arguing that they couldn’t possibly be supported under the case law.
The judge in the case, Gregory Carro, granted her motion in part. Quoting from earlier rulings, he wrote that in order for Broadnax to be convicted of the assault charge as it stood, he would have to have engaged in acts ” ‘so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so devoid of regard of the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy’ as to render the actor as culpable as one whose conscious objective is to kill.” By contrast, Carro ruled, Broadnax’s “dance in traffic put his own life in danger, not the lives of others.” He threw out the first-degree assault charge.
Around this time, Theodora Ray, the other shooting victim, also filed suit against the city. She’d already spent two and a half months in the hospital, according to her attorney, followed by a month of inpatient rehabilitation. The tally of her injuries and subsequent treatment includes a fractured tibia and fibula, with bullet fragments embedded in the wound; a metal plate screwed into place to secure the bone; and skin grafts to help mend what court papers characterize as “a complex open wound.” Ray sought recovery of medical expenses and other damages; her medical bills were still piling up, and the suit contains no exact figure.
Appling saw the ruling as a partial victory, but the D.A.’s office was still pushing for felony assault in the second degree as well as a range of misdemeanors, and the plea deal remained the same: seven years. Broadnax insisted he didn’t want to take a plea, Appling says. They decided to hold out.
Broadnax’s encounter with police had come at a difficult time, just when he was working to re-establish connections with a family he had lost — almost literally — for the better part of twenty years.
Born in Bed-Stuy, Broadnax came of age in the early 1990s, at the height of that neighborhood’s violence. Broadnax was the middle of three siblings. His older brother, Anthony, was killed at seventeen, in 1993, shot in the head in a case that the Times covered as an ugly milestone: the 75th Precinct’s 125th shooting that year, the second in a single day, the thirteenth in a nine-day period, and one that broke a citywide single-precinct record that had stood for thirty years.
Donza Brown, 37, remembers her brother Glenn as a goofy kid, a joker and amateur rapper, and a mountain of a guy even as an adolescent. Separated before they were even in their teens, they lived much of their lives in separate households only a mile or so apart without ever knowing it. Brown heard nothing from her brother in all that time, subsisting on a single childhood picture of the three siblings clowning on the stairs near their apartment, Glenn holding his sister in a headlock.
Sitting in her home in May, in a very different Bed-Stuy, Brown can’t believe she’d lost her brother for that long. When they reconnected five years ago, in a reunion sparked on Facebook, she was thrilled to have him back. “When he came to the door it was like, Oh my god, finally I found you,” she remembers. “We were hugging, we were crying.” (The Voice tried, over the course of several months, to contact Broadnax for this story, but was unable to locate him. Programs that may have had contact with him are barred by confidentiality rules from giving out information, and attempts made through social media, telephone, and family and friends were unsuccessful.)
Brown, whose twin dimples pop when she purses her lips to smile or blink back tears, had three kids to care for and eagerly welcomed Broadnax back into her life; he soon moved in to help out. Brown says he would cook breakfast for the kids, get everyone out the door for school and work, and dole out advice to Brown’s oldest son: Mind your mother, get your homework done, stay focused.
Broadnax was likely struggling even then, Brown says, but the extent of his problems wasn’t readily apparent to her. Sometimes he made odd, paranoid comments, like when he told her that he knew she was in the CIA. She was never sure when to take such statements seriously. “He would laugh afterwards,” Brown explains. “I mean, I’m comical at times too, and he can be very silly. At that time, I’m still trying to get to know him, and I’d be like, is he serious?” Mostly her brother was “very quiet,” she says, “very reserved.”
Before the encounter in Times Square, Broadnax seemed to be doing well. He was attending drug counseling and sticking to his meds, and he successfully completed a peer counseling program, posing for a proud graduation picture in a yellow mortarboard cap. He spent a good deal of his time lost in adventure and fantasy novels.
But then things took a turn. He became increasingly closed off and erratic. He stopped coming home at night. He’d go weeks without contact. And after being clean for a long stretch, it seemed like he’d begun using again. Not long after they lost touch, Brown read about her brother in the papers.
“My case is not taking a good turn,” Broadnax told a counselor on September 2, nearly a year after his arrest. Still in jail, he was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the legal process, records show. The D.A. was still pushing him to accept a plea deal, and Appling was still pushing for the most serious remaining charge — second-degree assault — to be dropped.
Broadnax felt like his case was being ignored by the wider world, and that frustrated him, too. The summer of 2014 was when the Black Lives Matter movement began in earnest, with protests and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following Michael Brown’s killing. Police violence was dominating headlines all over the country, even the world, but Broadnax was virtually anonymous. In a conversation with a jail counselor, he cited a Notorious B.I.G. song, “You’re Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You),” as a kind of explanation. If he had actually been wounded, or even killed, Broadnax suggested, the media might have paid attention.
As part of her efforts with the D.A., Appling commissioned a detailed mental health evaluation to provide some basis for negotiation. But even months after she’d handed it over to the prosecution, she says, they were still pushing for the seven-year plea deal. The prosecution also tried another tactic, Appling says, claiming at various times that Broadnax was a suspect in a violent crime in the Bronx. No one ever asked to interview Broadnax about the vaguely described case, Appling says, and no charges were ever filed. She was never told so much as the date of the alleged crime or the victim’s name. Still, the unsupported allegation was presented as a reason for the defense to take the deal and send Broadnax away for the better part of a decade. Appling viewed it as a desperate attempt to exert pressure on her client.
A spokeswoman for the Manhattan D.A. defended her office’s actions when asked about this period and the case in general. “This defendant has a violent criminal history,” the spokeswoman, who refused to be named, wrote in an email. “In this case, it was appropriate to prosecute him, as his actions directly endangered the lives of the public.” She went on to say that “the vast majority of people with serious mental illness are not violent,” though when they behave violently, they should be punished. She also categorically denied that the prosecution was motivated by a desire to protect police.
She attributed some of the delays in the case to a refusal by the defense to allow the prosecution to perform its own mental health evaluation, saying the D.A.’s office was unclear about Broadnax’s mental health status. Appling says allowing an examination by the opposing side before trial would have put her client at a disadvantage. Besides, she notes, the psychiatrist who examined Broadnax also works for the prosecution in some cases.
(In an email relating the “recollections” of the prosecutor, the D.A. spokeswoman also again brought up the alleged crime in the Bronx. Asked for specifics about when the crime occurred or what evidence there may have been against Broadnax, she declined to provide details. She also pointed the Voice to a court transcript that she said made mention of the allegations, but that transcript contains no such reference. The Bronx D.A.’s office said that without the name of a victim or any other basic facts, it couldn’t provide any information, either.)
By this point, Appling was getting frustrated, and, she says, the judge was too. It was only after Carro demanded that the prosecution begin preparing for trial, she recalls, that the D.A. finally relented. Broadnax would plead guilty to one count of reckless endangerment in the second degree and one count of resisting arrest, both misdemeanors. The felony charges would be dropped. He would be required to attend a counseling program. And, on December 19, 2014, after one year, three months, and five days in Rikers, Broadnax was free to go.
Over the course of the year that Broadnax sat in a jail cell, Khoshakhlagh had managed to turn her anger into something more like purpose. She did a few media appearances, and wasn’t shy about criticizing the D.A.
Soon she was contacted by Carla Rabinowitz, advocacy coordinator at Community Access, a mental health services and advocacy organization. The group is part of a coalition of more than seventy organizations, called Communities for Crisis Intervention Teams in New York City, which is advocating for what’s known as Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), a particular police training model that has been deployed successfully in other parts of the country.
Rabinowitz describes the 36-hour program — developed in Memphis nearly twenty years ago, and now used in at least three thousand departments — as substantial, but the principles are remarkably simple. It emphasizes patience and a nonconfrontational approach to people experiencing mental health problems: Speak calmly; don’t give orders; if there’s no need to intervene, simply stand by. CIT also incorporates mental health service “consumers” and mental health experts and culminates in real-world role-playing, where officers interact with actors playing suspects with mental illness.
In early 2014, a few months after an initial spate of press conferences, State Senator Kevin Parker, who represents parts of Brooklyn, introduced a bill to provide the first pot of money to begin the training sessions. In a video created to promote the bill, Parker referred to the Broadnax incident, and the charges leveled against him, as an example of the kind of scenario CIT can help prevent.
“These are not isolated stories,” Parker says in the video, having rattled off a list of shootings involving mentally ill suspects. “In fact, they’re more like an epidemic. Sadly, the unarmed and disturbed individual in Times Square was charged with a crime by the very officers who shot him.”
Rabinowitz and Steve Coe, the CEO of Community Access, see CIT as a major step forward in how the NYPD handles mentally disturbed suspects. So far 3,800 NYPD officers have gone through the program. But Rabinowitz and Coe continue to push for more improvements. They’ve recently begun a campaign to end the use of “body bags,” full-body restraint devices that became a topic of discussion after an amateur video of the technique in action emerged earlier this year.
Theodora Ray, whose leg was shattered by an NYPD bullet, continues to suffer the effects nearly three years later, according to her attorney, Darlene Miloski. Her suit against the city, seeking compensation and payment of her medical costs, is being bogged down by what Miloski describes as stalling tactics.
“The case has been in court eight times over the past few years,” Miloski told the Voice via email. Claiming that the incident with Broadnax remains an “ongoing investigation” — this despite the disposition of the case against him — the Law Department refuses to let the case proceed to trial, she says. It has also refused to name the officers who fired their guns that night. They remain unidentified. (The Law Department confirmed to the Voice that the delays in Ray’s case are due to ongoing investigation. “Once the investigation is complete, discovery will proceed,” a spokesperson said via email.)
According to Miloski, Ray, now 62, is unable to walk unaided and has been forced to take out high-interest loans to fund her legal effort. (Miloski declined to make Ray available for an interview.) “While the interest is accumulating, and compounding,” Miloski wrote, “the City does nothing to step up and take responsibility.”
As for Broadnax, he returned home to live with his sister, Donza Brown, after his release. Things were going well for a while after he left jail, Brown says. Broadnax stayed on his treatment program and they resumed a routine much like before he went in. (He eventually lapsed out of that treatment program, a not uncommon occurrence. He also picked up a drug possession charge.) But as recently as this past fall, things seemed hopeful, Brown says.
A journal Broadnax left behind at Brown’s house, covering a period last autumn, suggests a man working hard to better himself and trying to maintain close ties with his family. “Good morning to my self,” he wrote, in an entry dated September 4. “I woke up and folded my blanket and pillow, then went into kitchen and boiled some water. Woke sister up thinking she had to go to work. Then made nice [sic] and nephew some breakfast.”
But now, a year and a half after Broadnax’s release, Brown hasn’t spoken to him in months. He moved out after a dispute, and they lost contact. She hopes having his story told more fully might help him get some of the help she feels he needs. They’ve been through a lot, but she misses him.
“If I saw him right now,” Brown says, “I would want to just go up to him and hug him.”
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