The NYPD is investigating the alleged beating and illegal stop-and-search of a decorated Marine veteran in Queens by a pair of undercover cops, the Daily News has learned.
The disturbing incident occurred Jan. 15 as NYPD commanders were putting heat on cops to boost arrest activity in the wake of a massive work slowdown, just a stone’s throw from the new Police Academy where Commissioner Bill Bratton delivered a tough-sounding speech last year vowing to kick bad apples off the force.
The allegations are detailed in a $5 million notice of claim against the NYPD, expected to be filed with the city controller on Monday.
Omar Rendon, 25, a former Marine sergeant, said he was sitting in his Acura sedan in an Ulmer St. parking lot in College Point, Queens while on his lunch break last week, eating a Subway sandwich and watching “Wentworth” on his cell phone, when an unmarked blue van pulled alongside him.
Two men in plainclothes said, “Police! Get out of the car,” and reached in to unlock the door, he said. When Rendon — a handyman at the commercial complex, which features a movie theater and a Toys “R” Us — asked who they were, he said he was violently yanked out of the car. When he asked to see their I.D.s, one cop punched him in the face, he told The News.
The cops rifled through Rendon’s pockets and handcuffed him. He was thrown in the back of the windowless van and locked inside a prisoner cage while the cops searched inside the car and trunk.
“I told them, ‘I’m a Marine, what are you guys looking for?'” Rendon said. “I thought it was a kidnapping.”
After about 20 minutes, the cops released Rendon without explanation or identifying themselves, and they drove off leaving him bruised but not bowed. He followed the van and snapped a cell phone photo of the van’s license plate. Police sources said the plate number was traced to a leasing company in Connecticut that is used by the Queens Narcotics unit, and that that the department’s Organized Crime Control Bureau inspections unit is close to identifying the two plainclothes officers involved in the incident.
The source said the incident is being investigated as police misconduct rather than a criminal offense.
Rendon, who has two brothers on the police force and is on the waiting list to become a cop, has been interviewed by investigators and identified the cop who belted him from a photo array.
He said investigators also took him to the Ulmer Street parking lot, then along the roads where he tailed the two officers, in order to identify possible surveillance cameras along the route.
“We are aware of this incident and it is an active internal investigation,” said Deputy Chief Kim Royster, a police spokeswoman.
Rendon was treated at Long Island Jewish Medical Center for bruising on his face and a possible deviated septum, his attorney said. Rendon shared photos of himself taken in the emergency room with The News.
Despite the incident, Rendon still wants to follow in the footsteps of his brothers in blue. “All my life I’ve served the community,” said Rendon who has participated in heavy fighting in Helmond Province, Afghanistan. “I don’t think (the two cops) represent the police department the right way.”
Rendon received the combat action ribbon and a global war on terrorism medal for his service, then received an honorable discharge, according to documentation provided to The News. He is currently taking classes at Queens College.
His lawyer Scott Rynecki plans to file a $5 million notice of claim to sue the city on Monday and speculated that the cops may have been hunting for arrests in connection with pressure to end the slowdown. “This vicious attack is a complete violation of all the rights this decorated Marine risked his life to preserve,” Rynecki said.