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P.S. 41 Parents Grill NYPD Over Officer Who Pulled Gun Outside School

 Parents say their children witnessed the off-duty officer drawing his weapon outside their schoolyard.
Parents say their children witnessed the off-duty officer drawing his weapon outside their schoolyard.
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DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Parents of students at P.S. 41 met with NYPD officials Wednesday night to demand answers about an off-duty sergeant with the 6th Precinct drawing his gun on a public street last week in view of the schoolyard.

Sgt. Greg Abbott, a 23-year veteran of the NYPD who was named the 6th Precinct's Officer of the Year in 2011, was driving to work on Monday when an altercation with some bike messengers occurred.

Abbott reportedly nearly hit one of the messengers, who responded by punching Abbott's side view mirror. Police officials say Abbott got out of his car and the bike messenger threatened him with a weapon that later turned out to be a set of Allen keys, prompting Abbott to draw his off-duty firearm.

The bike messengers told the Daily News that the sergeant had his gun out as soon as he exited his car, and they told ABC7 the sergeant never showed them a badge or identified himself as a police officer.

But at the Monday night meeting, 6th Precinct Commanding Officer Joseph Simonetti said that Abbott had "at some point" said "police," which is considered sufficient in terms of self-identification as an officer.

Brittany Kong, 22, a babysitter of a fifth-grader at P.S. 41, said she witnessed the entire event and did not see or hear Abbott identify himself as an official.

"It was mass chaos because everyone just saw a guy with a gun," she said at the meeting.

Parents are furious because Abbott was facing the P.S. 41 schoolyard, where kids were gathered after school. Several said their children witnessed the incident and were traumatized.

"My son, who's 10, was standing right there, saw the whole thing — before he ran for his life," said Alexandra Van Schie, whose child is in fourth grade.

Van Schie and others questioned Simonetti and Lt. Dan Albano from the NYPD's Legal Affairs Bureau about the police report on the incident, which they believed was not a full account.

"I don't think there's any mention of a gun," said Van Schie. "I feel like the decision has been made, he told his story and that's it."

Albano assured her that the firearm is included in their investigation.

The meeting was also attended by an official from the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent entity that investigates complaints against police.

Another parent, Abbie Park, has one child in fourth grade at P.S. 41 and another who was coming to meet them on the street from a local middle school.

Park brought photos, one of Abbott from the video showing him holding the gun, and another that she said was of the scene he was facing toward — the schoolyard full of children.

"What I want to know is it legal for him to take out his gun? Was he really that threatened?" Park asked. "I frankly think that this person is unstable. I think it's scary that he's still in his car and the very same thing can happen tomorrow and there's nothing we can do about it."

And while the parents were upset the off-duty officer used a gun at all, Albano said police are all allowed to carry guns wherever they go "unless it's inappropriate, [like if they're] going to the beach [or] to the gym."

One parent asked if the NYPD officials would share the investigation report with the community when it's complete.

Simonetti started to tell him he would have to request it under the Freedom of Information Law, but the father interrupted.

"I know there's a FOIL process, I also know FOIL. I used to be a FOIL officer for the city. [I know] the hoops that people jump through [and I know] it's not required that we FOIL," he said.

Albano said he couldn't commit to releasing the report, but that he would bring it up with his superiors.

Parents were upset that Abbott has not been disciplined.

Abbott's "supervisors felt that there was no need for immediate disciplinary action or suspension or modification," Simonetti said. (Officers are considered on "modified duty" when they have their gun and badge taken away and are ordered to work from a desk.)

But some neighborhood residents feel that Abbott, who has been with the Sixth Precinct since 2002, is being unfairly maligned.

"I was horrified to read the story, and watch the video, especially after seeing Greg Abbott as the officer mentioned," said West Village resident Stephanie Phelan, adding that she knows Abbott to be "a terrific cop [and a] friendly and mild-mannered human being."

Phelan said she felt the video was unclear but that Abbott "didn't look threatening" to her.

"I can’t imagine he would have drawn his gun unless he felt it was necessary," she said. "It looked like he was holstering his weapon and giving a warning at the end of the video.

"I hate to see this anti-cop sentiment emerge, especially in our neighborhood," she added.

The CCRB and NYPD officials said they are open to hearing from anyone who witnessed the incident. CCRB can be reached by calling (800) 341-2272 or by filing a complaint online, and the 6th Precinct's community affairs' number is 212-741-4826.

The P.S. 41 Parent Action Committee has asked that any parents who contact either entity let them know by emailing ps.pac@ps41.org.