A second New York City police officer has been charged with brutally attacking a Haitian immigrant inside a Brooklyn station house last weekend, officials announced Friday night, adding that the essential information used against the officer was provided by one of his colleagues at the 70th Precinct.
Officer Charles Schwarz was named in an indictment handed up by a Brooklyn grand jury Friday afternoon, as was Officer Justin Volpe, who was charged earlier this week with torturing the immigrant, Abner Louima, after he was arrested in a scuffle outside a nightclub.
Police Commissioner Howard Safir declined to discuss the specifics of the indictment or to detail what role Schwarz is accused of playing. But law-enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said they thought that Schwarz restrained Louima in the station house bathroom while Volpe shoved a toilet plunger’s wooden handle up the man’s rectum, causing critical injury, and then into his mouth, breaking teeth.
One high-ranking law-enforcement official said Schwarz, 32, who lives on Staten Island, faced the same charges as Volpe: aggravated sexual abuse and first-degree assault.
Announcing the indictment at a news conference Friday, Safir said Schwarz, a six-year veteran, had received a 15-day suspension in 1992 “for striking somebody in the face.”
Schwarz surrendered to internal affairs detectives Friday night. “He is innocent of these charges, but unfortunately he will have to go through this lengthy and embarrassing process before he is vindicated,” said his lawyer, Stephen Worth.
Safir and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani praised the courage of the unnamed officer who provided information against Schwarz and said his cooperation put the lie to what the commissioner called “the myth of the blue wall of silence.” Investigators agreed that more officers in the Flatbush precinct are stepping forward to cooperate.
Some community leaders have said that while the current case was singularly repulsive, it reflected a broader problem in how the police under the Giuliani administration treat minority-group residents. To underscore that point, members of Louima’s family, as well as the Rev. Al Sharpton, a Democratic mayoral candidate, plan to hold a protest rally today in front of the 70th Precinct station house.
“We see the 70th Precinct as the symbol of institutional neglect of the city to deal with police brutality,” said Sharpton, who lives in the precinct.
But Giuliani defended both his Police Department and his administration. “The communities of the city have to also not fall into the excessive anti-police rhetoric that some people would lead them to,” he said, “because that drives the police further away.”