BROWNSVILLE — Lawyers for a Red Hook mother who claims police officers assaulted her teenage son so badly during a fare-beating arrest that he was left a quadriplegic and later died from his injuries have asked Brooklyn's District Attorney to open an investigation into what happened.
The lawyers sent a letter and their findings to DA Ken Thompson on Tuesday stating that a probe was necessary because they say the police account of the 2013 arrest of 17-year-old Deion Fludd, including an Internal Affairs Bureau review of the case, is riddled with holes and discrepancies.
Officers involved told IAB investigators that Fludd ran from them at a Brownsville subway station and a train clipped him. But lawyers Paul Fino and Shelly Werbel said the officers never documented that in their memo books or in Fludd’s arrest report.
Also, many of the officers involved in the arrest, or who witnessed it, had gone to the station despite it being outside the boundaries of their assigned posts, according to an IAB report obtained by the lawyers earlier this month.
“It’s now been almost a year-and-a-half since [Fludd’s mother] Karen lost her son, but the circumstances surrounding his death are still a mystery,” said Fino, who is representing the family in a lawsuit against the city, the NYPD and the MTA.
“Karen deserves answers from the city. Unfortunately, these records don’t provide any. They’re littered with obvious contradictions and inconsistencies that make Deion’s death seem even more suspicious. We’re going to find out what happened to Deion — whether it be in our civil trial in supreme court or through the investigation that I’m asking District Attorney Thompson to conduct.”
Fludd was with his high school sweetheart on the night of May 5, 2013, when they used a single MetroCard swipe to get through a turnstile at the C train’s Rockaway Avenue station.
After that swipe, Fludd and the officers’ accounts diverge.
As DNAinfo New York reported in April, before his death Fludd told his mother that he jumped onto the track bed and ran through the subway tunnel to the next station. There, he said, other officers attacked him, breaking his spine and leaving him on the subway tracks.
In the IAB report, a copy of which Fino and Werbel provided to DNAinfo, investigators reached another conclusion — that officers did not assault the teen.
They claimed that Fludd fled to the end of the station’s Manhattan-bound subway platform, jumped on the track bed and continued running into a tunnel until a train struck him.
Three of the officers involved in the arrest chased him until the end of the platform but didn’t follow him onto the tracks and into the tunnel, according to the IAB report.
The report states IAB investigators interviewed six officers who were either directly involved in the arrest or witnessed what transpired. All were either rookies or had only been with the NYPD for two years.
The investigators found that prior to the incident five of the officers had left their assigned posts without telling a supervisor and went to the Rockaway Avenue station. They all claimed that they went there to try to get fare-beating arrests.
Also, five of the officers didn’t document in their memo books that a chase occurred and that a train struck Fludd, the report shows. NYPD guidelines require that officers detail their actions and significant events during their shifts.
Only one officer, who claims he witnessed the chase from afar on a subway stairwell, wrote in his memo book that the officers pursued Fludd to the end of platform and then shone their flashlights into the tunnel but couldn’t find him.
IAB investigators interviewed a Manhattan-bound A train conductor who said he hit Fludd shortly after passing through the Rockaway Avenue station and then slammed on the brakes. The conductor added that he didn’t see any officers, but admitted his attention was focused on the track.
But Fino said there are too many discrepancies in police records and the IAB investigation that contradict the conductor's account. Those discrepancies include:
• Fludd’s arrest report doesn’t say how he was injured.
• The train that allegedly hit Fludd changes. An initial police summary of events that was sent to a command center at 12:18 a.m. on May 6 states a local Manhattan-bound C train struck Fludd at 10:14 p.m. on May 5. Ten minutes later, an updated summary said a Manhattan-bound A train hit Fludd at 10:10 p.m.
• The timing of the train hitting Fludd doesn’t match the statement of his girlfriend, Hesha Sanchez. The police version puts her on the subway platform with officers when the train strikes. However, Sanchez said she never saw an A train pass her.
• There are gaps in the written summary of the IAB’s review of surveillance footage from the subway platform. The city and the MTA have so far not provided a copy of the actual footage to Fludd’s lawyers for their own review.
“The NYPD’s investigation into Deion’s death was disturbingly superficial,” Fino said. “Not only did the investigators ignore the blatant conflicts in the statements of the officers involved, they didn’t even ask the important questions.”
What is irrefutable is that, during the incident, Fludd, who had dreamed of being an NBA basketball player, suffered a fractured skull and a spinal break that left him completely paralyzed from the neck down.
Despite being quadriplegic and needing a breathing tube, Fludd was shackled to his bed by police for nearly a month at Kings County Hospital, according to his mother.
He died from injuries on July 12, 2013, two days after being transferred to a rehabilitation center in the Rockaways. However, before his death, Fludd was able to tell his family and friends what happened.
He told his mother that he and his girlfriend, Sanchez, did squeeze through a turnstile together using a single swipe of his MetroCard.
When four officers approached the couple, he gave them his identification and MetroCard. After one of the officers ran a check on his ID, Fludd and Sanchez were told they were being arrested.
At the time Fludd, a sophomore, had been arrested twice before for fighting in school and was in the process of completing 30 days of community service. He told his mother that when the officers went to handcuff him, he panicked and ran.
He said he jumped onto the track bed, but was able to run to the next station at Ralph Avenue. When he reached that station’s platform, he said officers hit him in the head with a heavy flashlight and held him on the ground with their feet on his back as he struggled until his voice suddenly stopped working.
“They said, ‘Oh, you gonna be running? We are going to make sure your ass don’t run again,’” Fludd recalled the officers telling him, according to Karen.
Fludd told his mother that after that he drifted in and out of consciousness, but remembers officers carrying him back to the tracks.
Karen Fludd testified at a preliminary hearing connected to the lawsuit that her son “was very adamant” that a train did not hit him.
Fino said the IAB report also notes that a call about a train striking someone was made at 10:34 p.m. on the night of the incident from an alarm box at the Ralph Avenue station. But he said in another example of the poor IAB probe, the investigators never requested surveillance video from that station to see what happened there.
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment. The IAB report states that the officers who left their post to go to the Rockaway Avenue station and who didn't record the chase with Fludd in their memo books each lost a vacation day for the infractions.
The city Law Department declined to comment.
A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said they have received the letter and package from Fino and are reviewing the matter.