(CNN)The manager of the Staten Island bar that declared itself an "autonomous zone" in defiance of Covid-19 restrictions struck a New York City sheriff's deputy with his vehicle while attempting to evade arrest early Sunday morning, according to a sheriff's office statement to CNN.
A Staten Island bar manager hit a deputy with his car while trying to escape arrest, NYC sheriff's office says
The bar manager, Daniel Presti, denied the allegation on Monday.
Two deputies conducted surveillance on Mac's Pub House on Saturday night and determined Presti, 34, and others were serving food and alcohol to unmasked patrons, the sheriff's office statement said.
The deputies identified themselves and tried to take Presti into custody, but he drove his vehicle into one of the uniformed deputies, who was "thrown onto the hood of the vehicle," according to the statement. Deputies brought the vehicle to a stop after roughly 100 yards and arrested Presti, the statement said.
The statement said the deputy was transported to Staten Island University Hospital. Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jacqueline Gold told CNN the officer suffered two fractured tibias.
During a news conference late Monday morning, Presti said, "I have nothing but the utmost respect for the NYPD and law enforcement. I think when the investigation is complete you're going to find out that I did nothing wrong."
Louis Gelormino, an attorney representing both Presti and the bar in a civil lawsuit against city officials, disputed much of the sheriff's department's statement at the same news conference.
He called the sheriff's office allegation that the deputy suffered two fractured legs "an outright lie" and said the officer only suffered minor injuries to his ankle.
Deputies arrived in unmarked cars and failed to clearly identify themselves before they attempted to stop Presti, the lawyer said.
Presti was released without bail Sunday. He faces charges including second-degree assault for causing physical injury to an officer, second-degree reckless driving, first-degree reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration, according to online court records.
The fact that Presti was released without bail proves the officer only suffered minor injuries, Gelormino said.
City officials suspended the bar's liquor license November 27 after an investigator saw the bar's defiance of Covid-19 restrictions, according to an order issued by the liquor authority.
Because the bar is located in an "orange zone," only outdoor dining is allowed and no more than four persons can be seated per table. Bars and restaurants must close by 10 p.m.
Last month the bar declared itself an "autonomous zone" and encouraged unmasked patrons to dine inside the bar. The bar posted signs outside and on social media where it declared autonomy and encouraged customers to show support, according to the sheriff's department.
The "autonomous zone" designation was a term the bar chose to describe itself.
The incident highlights the frustration many small business owners are experiencing, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to hurt their finances. The bar has refused to shut down because the restrictions have impacted business, Gelormino said earlier this month.
Keith McAlarney, the owner of Mac's Pub, described the restrictions put forth by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio as "tyranny."
"I respect Covid, I don't respect the corruption, overreach, and arbitrary color zones that are killing all my friends' establishments here and across the country," McAlarney told reporters Monday. "You will find that we are here because of Cuomo and de Blasio trying to crush the little man who dare[s] to speak up."
In separate press briefings Monday, both Cuomo and de Blasio voiced outrage over the alleged assault.
"It's repugnant to the values of any real New Yorker. You never assault a police officer. Tough guy drives his car into a police officer, nah, it's disgusting. And a coward," Cuomo said, adding that coronavirus fatigue and anger must be dealt with.
"Our sheriff's deputy's life was in danger because of what this guy did and it's absolutely unacceptable and he should pay very serious consequences for what he did," de Blasio said.
When asked what he thought of Presti's release without bail, de Blasio said he respects law enforcement's process for determining who gets released. He said there should be appropriate consequences for such serious charges.
Mac's Public House will remain closed for the next few days and a protest that had been planned later Monday was called off "out of respect for law enforcement," Gelormino concluded Monday.
"But I can assure the fight to reopen Mac's Public House and for the rest of small business owners will continue. The dream lives on," McAlarney said.