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NYPD Officers Who Arrested James Blake Likely Won't be Fired, Sources Say

By Murray Weiss | September 22, 2015 7:03am
 NYPD officer James Frascatore mistakenly body-Slammed James Blake, officials said.
NYPD officer James Frascatore mistakenly body-Slammed James Blake, officials said.
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Getty Images/ Clive Brunskill and WNYC

MANHATTAN — The NYPD investigation into the “mistaken” takedown of tennis star James Blake will likely result in disciplinary action against several officers, but “nothing close to a dismissal,” DNAinfo New York has learned.

That includes Officer James Frascatore who tackled and cuffed Blake, sources said.

The Sept. 9 confrontation on East 42nd Street ignited a national firestorm, with Blake calling for Frascatore's firing, and Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton issuing apologies.

After meeting with de Blasio and Bratton on Monday, Blake appeared mollified that the officials were sympathetic and working to fight crime while reigning in unnecessary police force, and he expressed a wait-and-see attitude toward the departmental investigation.

While the issue of "force" is paramount, the most serious departmental charge will likely involve failing to properly report Blake’s “arrest,” even if Blake was apologized to and not taken to a station house to be processed.

Top brass learned of the incident from the media.

None of the officers, however, will likely face the prospect of “anything close to dismissal” unless they get caught lying to the internal investigators.

On Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio told CNN that none of the officers had yet to undergo the NYPD’s new training to reduce needless force and abuse.

DNAinfo New York has obtained details of the intensive NYPD Internal Affairs investigation into the incident outside the Grand Hyatt two weeks ago, which sources say was captured virtually from start to finish on at least three video tapes collected by the NYPD.

According to sources familiar with the IAB investigation, the three detectives involved in Blake's arrest have been grilled at least three times and been brought back to the Grand Hyatt to re-enact their roles in the incident, “On the Inside” sources say.

Frascatore, who joined the NYPD four years ago and was working with the three detectives that day, told his story to the Civilian Complaint Review Board last week during a grueling and "somewhat contentious” two and a half hour session, sources say.

The CCRB repeatedly asked Frascatore to explain his actions during the now infamous one-minute takedown, a recording of which was released by the NYPD to quell rumors that Blake was brutalized and kept in cuffs for hours.

Frascatore has yet to be quizzed by IAB, but his appearance will ostensibly bring the probe to a conclusion.

Sources also say the NYPD is already considering a new edict that a detective sergeant must be at the scene of any possible takedowns involving a team of detectives.

Presently, detective supervisors, who simultaneously oversee several investigations, have discretion when to leave an operation to their seasoned investigators.

It is unclear what charges Frascatore might face.

Meanwhile, sources say the credit card investigation that led up to Blake's arrest has expanded to Las Vegas and London, with more arrests expected soon.

Based on interviews with sources familiar with the NYPD internal investigation, here is the story of how a relatively minor NYPD operation spiraled into a national debate:

A few weeks ago, the NYPD’s Organized and Identity Theft Task Force received a complaint from officials at GoButler.com that they had recently been scammed on Sept. 3 and Sept. 4 by buyers of electronic items and Louis Vuitton bags.

The NYPD decided to set up a sting when the card was next used.

Detective Sgt. Dennis Chan, an 11-year veteran, assigned a team of three detectives — including First Grade Detective Daniel Herzog and Second Grade Detective Daniel Alessandrino — to accompany GoButler personnel to the delivery.

The detectives would be joined by Frascatore, who was working towards a detective shield of his own.

The plan called for the officers to arrest whoever received the package. The delivery was scheduled to take place next to the Grand Hyatt.

Experience had taught the investigators that the person receiving the property is rarely a player in the fraud. He is generally a go-between, usually a teenager, paid to bring the package to someone else.  The police expected to use that suspect to identify the ringleaders.

It is a tactic normally done every day in New York without incident.

According to sources, Chan started his shift that morning at 3 a.m. assisting in the execution of a search warrant in a separate fraud and elderly abuse case in Bay Ridge. 

That went off without a hitch, according to sources.

Chan then heard a radio dispatch from an officer chasing a possible bank robbery suspect. He joined the pursuit and helped grab the suspect, sources say.

By then, Chan's team on the GoButler.com fraud sting were already taking up positions on 42nd Street.

Frascatore was posted across the street, so that in the event the suspect broke free he could cut them off. 

Just as the hand-off was about to occur, two of the GoButler people noticed Blake and identified him as a suspect from the previous sales. They also had a photo of him, which they had obtained from the Web.

Herzog immediately radioed Frascatore that they had another suspect, "the guy in the blue shirt with the cell phone in his hands."

Criminals frequently have lookouts nearby who use cell phones to text accomplices that police are on the scene, sources say.

Herzog told Frascatore to wait until they grabbed the first suspect and then move in on the second suspect, who turned out to be Blake. When detectives confronted the package receiver, identified as James Short, 27, a British national, he was outnumbered and surrendered without incident. 

Frascatore then ran across the street to confront Blake.

He grabbed him and told the CCRB that when he felt Blake “tense up” as though he might run, he decided to put him down and handcuff him to prevent any chase along 42nd Street, sources say.

As it turned out, Blake’s reaction was completely natural since he was completely innocent. He had been standing outside the Grand Hyatt waiting for a ride to the U.S. Open.  

Blake repeatedly told the police that they had the wrong man. So did a retired cop working security for the Open who was standing nearby in the lobby, which was a hub for the tennis championship.

The officers quickly examined Blake’s identification, realized their mistake and Herzog began to uncuff him to the consternation of incredulous GoButler employees.

“What are you doing?" sources said the computer delivery service officials demanded. “That is one of the guys.”

They reminded Herzog they had identified Blake as a suspect, and they had a photo of a man who looked very similar to Blake — yet turned out to be an Australian businessman who also was not the suspect.

Herzog told them Blake was not their man, released him and “profusely” apologized to Blake while explaining the mix-up, sources said.

The Harvard educated tennis pro seemed to fully understand, Herzog and the other police told investigators, according to sources who added that Herzog and Blake shook hands.

Frascatore also claims he offered his apologies, according to sources. And he says he also shared a handshake with Blake at one point.

Blake has said a detective apologized to him, but he says no such apology came from Frascatore.

After Blake was released, Frascatore and another detective went looking for yet another suspect, Jarmaine Grey, 26, also a Brit, who was seen lurking in the lobby by GoButler employees.  

Grey was taken into custody without incident by Frascatore, apparently because Grey was outnumbered.

According to sources, the team of officers told IAB that they thought Blake "was OK with everything" when he left.

They were apparently wrong again.

The following day, Blake publicly questioned his "takedown" and his remarks triggered a new round of heated discussions about NYPD tactics.

The officers are slated to make another appearance, this time with the CCRB as early as Tuesday.