FORT GEORGE — Police officers dislocated the elbow and fractured the arm of man who was fighting with his roommate in a Broadway Terrace apartment last month, according to a potential lawsuit.
The incident unfolded Jan. 3, when Lawrence Rockwood, 57, was arguing with his roommate about apartment expenses at about 2 p.m., according to Rockwood and a notice of claim filed with the city comptroller's office.
Several officers from the 34th Precinct arrived after receiving a 911 call, but Rockwood refused to open the door and told them that neither he nor his roommate had called police, Rockwood told DNAinfo New York.
The officers asked to confirm this with his roommate, June Miller, 50, who then opened the door to speak to police, Rockwood and Miller explained.
“I opened it just to show them that I was fine,” she said.
That's when one officer pushed Miller to the side and barged into the apartment, according to both roommates.
“Between the door and me, the officer crashed into a chair and a table,” Rockwood recounted. “Before I could stand all the way up, he slammed me against a wall and then down on the floor.”
Rockwood said the officer, whose name he did not get, told him, "Next time you’ll open the door."
Miller tried to film the incident on her phone but another officer took it out of her hand, she added.
Rockwood and Miller both said the officer then picked Rockwood up from the floor and moved him toward the door.
“They had him by the back of the head, and then I heard them say, ‘Oops,’ and then boom,” said Miller, mimicking officers slamming Rockwood's head into the front door. “I said to the other cops, ‘Tell me you didn’t see that?’ They just said, ‘We didn’t see anything.’”
Rockwood was taken by ambulance to Harlem Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and treatment for a non-critical injury, the NYPD and FDNY said.
According to the complaint, he suffered broken bones and underwent surgery while at Harlem Hospital.
The notice of claim, filed in advance of an expected $2 million lawsuit, states that Rockwood was wrongfully detained and assaulted by the officers, despite not being charged with a crime. The comptroller's office did not respond to a request for comment on the claim.
A spokeswoman for the NYPD said officers were responding to a 911 call of an emotionally disturbed person at the address. When police arrived as the scene, the officers learned that Rockwood had not taken his medication and was acting erratically, she added.
Rockwood acknowledged that he takes an anti-depressant and a sleep aid, but insisted that he was not off of his medication at the time of the incident. He also said that police never asked him about his medication.
"No one from my apartment called police," he said. "How would the person who called know anything about my medication unless they lived with me?"
The NYPD did not respond to additional questions about the medication but did say the department's Internal Affairs Bureau is investigating the incident.
Rockwood and Miller said a neighbor has previously called 911 after hearing them or other residents in the building arguing. Other neighbors said they sometimes hear the pair arguing but have never seen any evidence of violence.
Chris Joslin, a lawyer with David Horowitz PC, the firm representing Rockwood, said he has requested full medical records from Harlem Hospital but has yet to receive them. Records indicate that Rockwood was treated at Harlem Hospital beginning on Jan. 3 and was discharged at a later date, but they did not specify what the treatment entailed.
“It’s a shocking event," Joslin said. "Especially in the climate that we’re in right now between the community and law enforcement, that this would happen."
Rockwood, a U.S. Army veteran who now works as a historical tour guide, also brought his concerns to the January meeting of the 34th Precinct Community Council.
At the time, the precinct's commander, Deputy Inspector Chris Morello, said he was unaware of the incident but would make sure the complaint has been registered with Internal Affairs.
"It's never acceptable and it's not common practice in the NYPD," Morello said of the officer's alleged actions.
This was not Rockwood’s first brush with the law.
He was detained and later court-martialed for attempting to report human rights abuses in Haiti’s prisons while he was stationed there for an army operation in 1994.