Among the cops who were insulted and vilified by protesters in New York on Saturday were two young men who are treasures of their city and their nation.
One was Detective Larry DePrimo, who became an Internet sensation after he came upon a shoeless panhandler in Times Square on a bitterly cold night in 2012.
DePrimo asked the man his shoe size and headed for a Skecher’s store two blocks away. A tourist took a cell-phone video of the cop presenting the pandhandler with a brand-new, $100 pair of all-weather boots, along with thermal socks.
“The officer expected NOTHING in return and did not know I was watching,” the tourist wrote on her Facebook page when she posted the soon-to-go-viral video.
The other cop was Police Officer Conor McDonald. His mother was three months pregnant with him in 1986 when a teenage gunman shot and permanently paralyzed his father, Detective Stephen McDonald. His father chose Conor’s christening as an appropriate moment to pubicly forgive the young gunman who had consigned him to a wheelchair, unable to breathe without the aid of a ventilator.
“I became a police officer to help the people of New York in any small way I could. My father and grandfather before me had the same dream,” he wrote in an open letter of forgiveness. “When I first wore the badge of a police officer, I was so proud to, and hoped that I would be able to live up to its tradition of courage and compassion.”
That same badge of courage and compassion, shield, No.15798, was on Conor McDonald’s chest when he strode onto Broadway with DePrimo on Saturday. Conor had gone on to graduate from Boston College and he could have done just about anything else he wanted, but he had decided to join the NYPD despite being reminded of its dangers every time he looked at his father. He will tell you why became a cop with the exact same words used by DePrimo and many of their fellow officers.
“To help people.”
But as young McDonald and DePrimo stood together at Broadway and Waverly Place, the protesters just saw a couple of cops. The protesters hurled insults and made obscene gestures.
“How do you spell murder?...NYPD!” they chanted. “How do you spell racist?...NYPD!”
The protesters certainly had a legal right to demonstrate against the decision of grand juries not to indict Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Police Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Eric Garner in Ferguson.
But that did not give the protesters a moral right to condemn Police Officer Conor McDonald and Detective Larry DePrimo and the great many other good cops along with a very few bad ones.
Those protesters who were judging all cops not by who they are, but what they are, were being no more just than racists.
How is it not profiling?
A number of other cops at the protest were from the legal bureau and they were there to ensure that the law was observed and that everyone’s rights were respected.
“They’re refs,” a high ranking police official later explained.
Those cops included Lt. Philip Chan and Lt. Patrick Sullivan. They were present when a number of protesters continued onto the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday evening. A number of bottles and other debris came down upon the demonstrators and cops on the roadway from the pedestrian walkway above.
Up on the walkway, Chan observed a man lifting a 45-pound wire basket with the apparent intent of pitching it over the railing onto the roadway below. Chan ordered the man to put it down and the ensuing criminal complaint would say that he complied.
Chan still felt that a line had been crossed and he went to arrest the man. The man pulled his arm way rather than be handcuffed. At least one of those ubiquitous cell phone cameras began filming.
“Record it! Record it!” a woman protester can be heard shouting.
But this time what the video recorded was not police violence but violence against the police.
Other protesters can be seen moving in to “de-arrest” the man. Somebody yanks Chan and elbows him and he is momentarily distracted trying to apprehend his assailant.
Sullivan has by then moved in to help and he seeks to complete the arrest of the first man. Chan joins him. The struggle continues and Chan is punched, suffering a broken nose. Both men are pummeled. Sullivan ends up on the walkway, where a male protester literally begins kicking him when he is down.
The man finally manages to break free with the help of the others, slipping out of his coat. But he loses his backpack in the process and it stays with the cops as he flees down the walkway toward Brooklyn.
“We’re left holding the bag,” a police official later said.
The police inspected the backpack and found two brand new hammers. They also found a City University of New York ID for Erick Linsker as well as a passport in the same name and house keys and some pot.
“Which proves he is as dumb as a bag of hammers,” the official says.
At 3:45 am Sunday police arrested 29 year-old Eric Linsker at his apartment in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. He is from Millwood in suburban Westchester County, where blacks comprise around 1 percent of the population. He had gone on to Harvard and the famed writer’s program at the University of Iowa. He was now a CUNY professor and had won awards for his poetry, his verse ranging from the erotic to lines such as “Fuck the police.”
However he may feel about the police, he certainly benefited from them when he moved to Brooklyn, joining the wave of gentrification made possible after the NYPD dramatically cut the violent crime rate since the bad old 1990s. He presently resides in the 77th Precinct, where murder is down by more than 89 percent, rape by more than 73 percent, robbery by more than 86 percent.
The crime stats for the 5th Precinct took an uptick as Linsker was booked on charges that included felony assault. He was led into court not only in handcuffs, but also in shackles, perhaps because of the report that a cop had been kicked on the bridge.
The criminal complaint misidentified Sullivan as Gallagher and failed even to allege anything that the judge seemed to feel warranted the assault charge.
“Defendant moved his hands in a manner so as to avoid the application of handcuffs to his wrists,” the complaint says. “Lieutenant Chan then observed other protesters come to the defendant’s aid and try to pull Lieutenant Chan off the defendant.”
The complaint goes on to say, “While the protesters grabbed at Lieutenant Chan and pushed and pulled him off of defendant, Lieutenant Chan observed one protester, who had been wearing a mask, strike Lieutenant Chan in his face with a closed fist. This caused Lieutenant Chan to suffer a broken nose.”
The complaint continues, “During this period of time, defendant escaped police custody.”
The judge rejected the prosecutor's request for $25,000 bail and released Linsker on his own recognizance.
“At worst, Eric picked up a garbage can, was told by police to put it down, and did,” his lawyer, Martin Stoler, insisted.
And at that point it seemed that the protesters who “de-arrested” Linsker might well never be caught.
But then somebody posted on YouTube a video of the incident, one that actually helps the police.
“We’re greatly assisted by YouTube,” NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said Monday evening. “We want to thank them.”
Investigators studied the video instant by instant and were convinced that they could see more than enough to support the charges against Linsker.
“There is video evidence that clearly shows Linsker resisting arrest and throwing a punch,” Manhattan Chief of Detectives William Aubry said.
The investigators also were able to pick out six protesters—three men and three women—who they believe joined in the assault on the two lieutenants. Still images of each will be released today and a reward will be posted for information leading to their arrest.
“We do not take attacks on our police officers lightly,” Bratton said. “Never have, never will.”
At least two other officers had been physically assaulted since the protests began.
“Demonstrator brutality,” one cop said.
And then there was the unrelenting verbal abuse of cops simply because they are cops.
That was within the protesters’ legal right to free speech. But it remains a moral crime to vilify good cops who have made the city safe, saving thousands of lives.
And in cursing and insulting two such civic treasures as Detective Larry DePrimo and Officer Conor McDonald, the protesters only shamed themselves.