2nd New York cop faces charges in Haitian attack
August 15, 1997
Web posted at: 9:48 p.m. EDT (0148 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A second New York City police officer faces charges in connection with a brutal assault on a Haitian immigrant in a Brooklyn station house.
Charles Shwarz, 32, a six-year veteran, is an officer at the 70th Precinct. That's the same precinct where Abner Louima says he was dragged into the bathroom to be beaten and sodomized with a toilet plunger after his arrest outside a nightclub last Saturday.
Another officer, Justin Volpe, 25, has already been arrested on charges related to the Louima attack.
Shwarz and Volpe were indicted by a grand jury Friday. Shwarz's attorney told police he would turn himself in Friday. Specific details about the charges against him were not available.
Officer's information led to charges
In announcing the impending arrest of Shwarz Friday evening, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the charges stem in part from information provided by another police officer who came forward after a plea from Police Commissioner Howard Safir.
Safir said the decision by the unidentified officer to provide information puts to rest the "myth of a blue wall of silence," a reference to the belief that police officers would be reluctant to provide information about alleged misconduct by one of their own.
"Most police officers are as repulsed by this act as the rest of us are, and this police officer came forward in a very courageous and brave way and was very helpful in this investigation," Safir said.
Both the mayor and Safir said they hoped more officers who might have information about the attack on Louima would now come forward.
The officer who provided information about the attack is being given protection, though Safir said there have been no specific threats made against him.
Giuliani and Safir would not detail what charges Shwarz faces, saying they could not do so until the indictments were unsealed next week. They would also not provide details as to what his role might have been in the attack.
Safir did give details about Shwarz's performance background as a police officer. In 1992, while still in his probationary period as a rookie, he was suspended for 15 days for striking someone in the face, Safir said.
Three complaints had also been filed against him -- one for using excessive force, one for cursing and one for using an ethnic slur, Safir said. None of the complaints was substantiated, Safir said.
Attack prompts outrage in Haitian community
The assault on Abner, who remains hospitalized suffering a torn rectum and lacerated bladder, has outraged many New Yorkers, particularly those in the Haitian-American community.
The phones at a local Haitian radio station have been ringing off the hook, with some comparing the 70th Precinct station house with Fort Dimanche, an infamous torture center in their native Haiti.
A coalition of Haitian organizations said in a statement that the attack "fits a pattern of police brutality against those who do not resemble, speak or behave in a manner similar to what police officers have come to expect."
Abner has alleged that during the assault, police officers called him a "stupid nigger" and even invoked the mayor's name, saying, "It's Giuliani time."
The mayor is running for re-election, and the centerpiece of his campaign is his get-tough approach to criminals, which has sent the city's crime rate plummeting.
Asked about the alleged "Giuliani time" remark, the mayor, a former federal prosecutor, said, "If in fact any cop said this, the cop doesn't know what I stand for, what the police department stands for, and he doesn't deserve to be a member of the New York Police Department."
The Giuliani administration cites figures showing a more than 20 percent drop in complaints against police during the first half of the year. But critics say the Civilian Complaint Review Board, established four years ago to monitor brutality complaints, isn't working.
Out of more than 20,000 complaints handled by the board, critics complain that only one officer has been dismissed.
Correspondent Maria Hinojosa contributed to this report.