The Range Rover involved in the bikers attack is being moved from the police precinct for further police investigation Oct. 5 in New York.
Photo credit: AP Photo/David Karp
NEW YORK (AP) — An off-duty, undercover police detective on a motorcycle was seen on video hitting and kicking an SUV when a biker rally spiraled into violence, two people familiar with the case said Tuesday.
Although his lawyer said Monday that the detective had only witnessed other bikers attacking the vehicle, investigators have video evidence they believe shows him participating in the melee, according to the two people. One said the footage shows him punching an already damaged back window, then twice kicking the side of the SUV before leaving the scene — an alleged outburst that could result in his arrest.
The people were not authorized to discuss the inquiry and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The disclosure added to the complexities of the Sept. 29 episode, which authorities say began with a reckless motorcycle group ride on a Manhattan highway. It ended with one motorcyclist run over and the SUV driver dragged from his car and beaten on a city street.
Four bikers have been criminally charged; the latest was arraigned Tuesday on gang assault and other charges.
New York Police Department internal affairs investigators have been looking into the undercover detective's conduct because he didn't report until three days later that he had been at the rally. The expectation that officers will act if they see a crime aren't the same for undercover officers.
Asked about the undercover detective on Tuesday, Police Commissioner Raymond noted he had been relegated to desk duty but declined to discuss the case further.
"We have put a police officer on modified assignment and the investigation is going forward," he said.
The detective's lawyer, Phil Karasyk, didn't immediately return a call Tuesday. A top union official said there were too many unanswered questions to comment.
"The facts are evolving and changing so quickly that the union will withhold any further comment until we see what the investigation reveals," said Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives' Endowment Association.
Captured partly on a video that was posted online, the encounter began when about two dozen riders slowed down, swarming a Range Rover after it bumped a biker on Manhattan's West Side Highway. Some riders dismounted and approached the vehicle, and police said some bikers began damaging the SUV.
The SUV's driver, Alexian Lien, took off, running over motorcyclist Edwin "Jay" Mieses Jr. The impact broke both Mieses' legs and caused spinal injuries that may leave him paralyzed.
Lien's wife has said he feared for their lives and the safety of their 2-year-old daughter and had no choice but to flee; Lien hasn't been charged with any crime.
The bikers then pursued the SUV, which exited the highway and got stuck in street traffic. One biker used his helmet to shatter the driver's window, and others pulled Lien out and beat and kicked him, police and prosecutors said. Lien needed stitches.
The latest motorcyclist charged in the case, Craig Wright, 29, punched Lien through the broken window and joined in stomping him on the street, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Samantha Turino said. A judge set Wright's bail at $100,000.
Wright's lawyer, Mitchell Elman, cautioned against any "rush to judgment" in the highly scrutinized case.
"Mr. Wright, obviously, has every right to fight these charges," he said.
According to the undercover detective's account, he saw motorcyclists attacking the SUV, but he didn't see anyone harm Lien, Karasyk said Monday. The detective also didn't see the SUV hit Mieses, the attorney said.
Carrying no badge or gun, and aware of cases in which officers had been suspended or dismissed for blowing their cover, "he had no other option, so he drove away," said Karasyk, who works with the detectives' union.
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