VAN NEST — An upstate man wants the city to pay up after investigators twice accused him of being a triggerman in a brutal Bronx murder.
Following both arrests, Raed Ayyash, 51, eventually walked away a free man — first in 1988 and then 24 years later after cold-case cops reopened the investigation.
Ayyash, of Pleasant Valley, N.Y., is suing the Bronx District Attorney's Office and NYPD detectives, claiming they violated his civil rights by arresting him a second time.
Ayyash was first arrested for the murder of Hassan Abusalem in 1988.
On Sept. 11 of that year, two gunman rang the doorbell of Abusalem's Van Nest apartment. When Abusalem opened his door, the two men barged in, shot him in the chest and slashed his throat.
One gunman found Abusalem's wife hiding under the bed and fired a bullet that grazed her head.
The wife, whose name DNAInfo.com New York is withholding, survived the attack. In interviews with detectives, she identified Muhammad "Mike" Abuhweig, whom she and her husband knew, as one of the gunman. She and another witness also identified Ayyash as a shooter, according to court documents.
Their accounts led cops to arrest Ayyash, but he was quickly cut lose.
At the time prosecutor Risa Sugarman was chief of the homicide bureau for the Bronx district attorney's office. She voided the arrest because she was displeased the detectives did not consult her beforehand and because she believed the witnesses wouldn't cooperate in the future out of fear of retaliation, according to a later court decision.
Though Abusalem's wife continued to cooperate with detectives and identified Ayyash again, the investigation languished. In 1997 cops tried to locate the witnesses and Abuhweig, but their searches came up empty.
In 2005 the case was transferred to the NYPD's cold-case unit. Those detectives tracked down Ayyash and Mike Abuhweig, who were living in San Diego. But before cops could detain Abuhweig, he flew to Jordan, courts records show.
When the detectives failed to lure Abuhweig back to the states, they arrested Ayyash in June 2007, according to court records.
Ayyash was charged with second-degree murder, but Judge Troy Webber tossed the case in January 2012.
In her decision, Webber said she was "loathe to dismiss" the charge, but the prosecutors did not give a good reason for the 19-year delay, other than Sugarman's refusal to authorize the 1988 arrest.
A spokeswoman for Sugarman referred questions to the Bronx District Attorney's office. A spokesman for the Bronx DA declined to comment. The city Law Department said it was reviewing the complaint.
Ayyash's lawsuit, filed Jan. 14 in Bronx Supreme Court, claims malicious prosecution. It also claims that Ayyash was arrested the second time in order to lure Abuhweig back to the United States.
A lawyer for Ayyash did not return a call for comment.
Abusalem's wife spoke to DNAinfo but appeared disoriented at times during the interview. She said she didn't know any suspects' names but could identify them in pictures.
"It was horrible. They stabbed him and shot him," she said of her husband's murder. "All I remember was he died with his eyes open."