August 14, 1997 in Nation/World

Police Officer Accused Of Assaulting Arrested Man With Toilet Plunger

Tom Hays Associated Press
 

A police officer surrendered Wednesday night to face charges of taking a Haitian immigrant arrested in a nightclub fight into a stationhouse bathroom and sexually brutalizing him with a toilet plunger.

“They said, ‘Take this,”’ 30-year-old Abner Louima said in an interview from the hospital, where he was in critical condition after surgery to repair a puncture in his small intestine and an injury to his bladder.

The incident has inflamed racial tensions in New York. Louima said the officers disparaged his race as they tortured him.

Justin Volpe, 25, turned himself in to Internal Affairs just before 10 p.m., said Olga Mercado, a police spokeswoman.

Deputy Inspector Michael Collins said Volpe would be charged with aggravated sexual abuse and first-degree assault. Collins also said charges against Louima relating to the nightclub fight were being dropped.

Another officer involved in the case, identified by a police source as Thomas Bruder, 31, was assigned to desk duty. Collins said only Volpe faced charges Wednesday night.

The investigation into Louima’s arrest early Saturday intensified after doctors confirmed the injuries appeared to have been caused by a blunt instrument.

Louima identified Volpe and Bruder as the arresting officers from photographs shown to him in his Coney Island Hospital bed. He claimed as many as four officers were involved.

Louima’s attorney, Brian Figueroux, said his client told him the officers invoked Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s name as they beat him.

“We’re going to teach you … to respect police officers. (Former Mayor David) Dinkins is no longer in power. It’s Giuliani time,” Figueroux quoted Louima as saying.

Earlier Wednesday, Giuliani called the attack “reprehensible, done by anyone at anytime.”

“Allegedly done by police officers, it’s even more reprehensible,” he said.

Before it was announced that charges against Louima were being dropped, he was handcuffed to his hospital bed and denied visitors - drawing protest from his lawyers, family and civil right activists.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who is running for mayor, stood outside and demanded that charges against Louima be dropped and the officers arrested. “Nothing can justify the torture of a human being,” he said.

Louima was one of two men who police said interfered with officers trying to break up a fight between two women outside a nightclub called Club Rendez-vous. Both were arrested on charges of assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing justice.

Louima told the Daily News from his hospital bed Tuesday that the trouble began after he was handcuffed and put in a patrol car. When he protested, officers kicked him and beat him with police radios, he said.

At the 70th Precinct house, officers pulled down his pants and led him to the bathroom, where they sodomized him, Louima said. An ambulance took him to the hospital.

Louima said they also threatened to kill him if he tried to turn them in.

Family members said Louima, a security guard who moved to New York from Haiti six years ago, had no injuries at the time of his arrest.

“He’s never been in trouble before,” his wife, Micheline, 24, said while holding their baby, Abner Jr.

Louima’s lawyer, Figueroux, said: “This isn’t police brutality. This is torture.”

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