The man, Glenn Broadnax, 35, of Brooklyn, created a disturbance on Sept. 14, wading into traffic at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue and throwing himself into the path of oncoming cars.
A curious crowd grew. Police officers arrived and tried to corral Mr. Broadnax, a 250-pound man. When he reached into his pants pocket, two officers, who, the police said, thought he was pulling a gun, opened fire, missing Mr. Broadnax, but hitting two nearby women. Finally, a police sergeant knocked Mr. Broadnax down with a Taser.
The shootings once again raised questions about the police use of firearms in crowded areas and drew comparisons to a shooting a year ago, when officers struck nine bystanders in front of the Empire State Building when they killed an armed murder suspect.
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 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.
This is a stretch in every sense if the word.
The two police officers, who have not been identified, have been placed on administrative duty and their actions are still under investigation by the district attorney’s office, law enforcement officials said. They also face an internal Police Department inquiry.
Mr. Broadnax’s lawyer, Rigodis Appling, said Mr. Broadnax suffered from anxiety and depression and had been disoriented and scared when the police shot at him. He was reaching for his wallet, not a gun, she said. “Mr. Broadnax never imagined his behavior would ever cause the police to shoot at him,” she said.
After his arrest, Mr. Broadnax was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where he told a detective that “he was talking to dead relatives in his head and that he tried throwing himself in front of cars to kill himself,” according to a court document released on Wednesday.
A judge ordered a mental evaluation, and a psychiatrist later found Mr. Broadnax competent to stand trial, Ms. Appling said.
On Wednesday, Justice Gregory Carro set bail at $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash.
Mariann Wang, a lawyer representing Sahar Khoshakhlagh, one of the women who was wounded, said the district attorney should be pursuing charges against the two officers who fired their weapons in a crowd, not against Mr. Broadnax. “It’s an incredibly unfortunate use of prosecutorial discretion to be prosecuting a man who didn’t even injure my client,” she said. “It’s the police who injured my client.”
Unfortunate is an understatement to say the least.