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2 more New York policemen charged in brutality case

Safir and Giuliani

Giuliani plans neighborhood-police talks

August 18, 1997
Web posted at: 6:28 p.m. EDT (2228 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Two more New York police officers were arrested Monday in the alleged assault of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, bringing the number of policemen taken into custody to four. Also Monday, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani announced plans for intense discussions between police officers and the neighborhoods they serve.

An attorney for Louima said his client planned to sue the city for $55 million, and the Justice Department announced it was launching a federal civil rights investigation.


In the latest arrests, New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir said 70th Precinct officers Thomas Wiese, 33, and Thomas Bruder, 31, were charged with second- and third-degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon -- a police radio they allegedly beat Louima with while he was in their patrol car.

Wiese had previously been named in published reports as one of two officers who came forward with information about what he saw during the August 9 attack.

Wiese's partner, Charles Schwarz, 31, had already been charged in the attack, as had a fourth officer, 25-year-old Justin Volpe.


Five officers suspended; others reassigned

Wiese and Bruder are accused of actions that allegedly took place before Louima was taken to the 70th Precinct station, Safir told a news conference. All four policemen and another sergeant have been suspended in the case, and 13 officers have had their work assignments modified, Safir said.

"This investigation is by no means over, and we will continue to place every aspect of this case under the closest scrutiny," he added. "There can be no place in this police department for anybody who would commit or condone any acts that took place in this investigation."

He would not discuss details of the probe, including details of the two officers' alleged involvement. Both Wiese and Bruder had had prior unsubstantiated civilian complaints filed against them.

Schwarz, Volpe indicted

Indictments were unsealed Monday accusing Schwarz and Volpe of aggravated sexual abuse and first-degree assault. If convicted, they could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The indictments say Volpe and Schwarz attacked Louima with their fists, then attacked him with "forcible compulsion with a wooden stick," District Attorney Charles Hynes said Monday.

The prosecutor also said Volpe "was seen wearing gloves," which were recovered and are being tested for DNA.

Schwarz's attorney, Stephen Worth, said Monday that his client was "falsely accused." Schwarz was released on $100,000 bail. Volpe was to be arraigned later Monday.

Volpe's 26-year-old girlfriend, who is black, denied he could have been involved in a racially motivated assault.

"Justin a racist? Impossible," she was quoted in Monday's Daily News.

Louima: Policemen screamed racial slurs

Louima, a 30-year-old private security guard, said he was arrested while trying to break up a fight outside a nightclub. He claims the officers dragged him to the precinct restroom, where an officer held him down and another sodomized him with the wooden handle of a plunger.

During the attack, he said, policemen screamed racial slurs, and at one point shouted, "This is Giuliani time, not Dinkins time," a reference to the current mayor's predecessor, David N. Dinkins, New York's first black mayor.

Louima remained in intensive care, recovering from a tear to his colon and a laceration to his bladder; he now requires a catheter and colostomy bag.

Mayor wants community-police talks

Following Safir's comments, Giuliani said he planned to initiate discussions between New York residents and police officers, so any public criticism can be aired openly and the police can respond.

'But the reality is -- and I think even some of the critics of the police department that I spoke to today certainly believe -- that the overwhelming majority of police officers are good people doing a good job.'

— New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani

Ultimately, Giuliani said, he wants the talks to involve "every single police officer in the city of New York." By the end of the talks, he hopes police officers will treat colleagues who criminally abuse their power like criminals -- and that when officers are falsely accused, the community will stand with them "against the bad people of the city."

"The fact is that both the police and the communities in New York are suffering from the same kind of group blame, group dynamic," Giuliani said.

"But the reality is -- and I think even some of the critics of the police department that I spoke to today certainly believe -- that the overwhelming majority of police officers are good people doing a good job," and most police officers also believe most New Yorkers are good people, he said.

"So we're essentially letting the worst determine the agenda."

Safir, who is threatening to fire anyone who withholds information, said Sunday that he put all 700 members of his department's Internal Affairs Bureau to work investigating the charges. Giuliani credited the first officer to come forward last week for performing a heroic act.

In comments directed at officers who have not aided the investigation, the mayor said, "There's no point in coming forward if you're not going to tell the truth. You might as well let us just try to find you, proceed against you and either prosecute you or throw you out of the department."

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