Ex-NYPD sergeant in Brooklyn shooting surrenders to face evidence tampering charges

EAST NEW YORK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- A former NYPD sergeant involved in the off-duty shooting of a man in Brooklyn last year surrendered to authorities Friday to face a grand jury indictment alleging he tampered with evidence.

Ritchard Blake was not indicted for the August 2, 2018, shooting in East New York, which was found to be justified because the victim had his hand in his pocket and had previously motioned as if he had a weapon, sources said.

Blake pleaded not guilty.

Law enforcement officials tell Eyewitness News that after shooting 21-year-old Thavone Santana in the face, Blake called 911 and could be heard saying to the victim, "What did you do that for?"

He allegedly took a knife out of his back pocket and planted it on the ground before looking up and realizing he was on surveillance video, at which point he picked up the weapon.

Blake was fired by the NYPD weeks after the shooting.

Santana, whose jaw has been wired shut since the incident, testified before a grand jury last week.

In a statement released to ABC News, Blake's lawyer said that the former police sergeant acted in self-defense.

"It's tragic that Mr. Santana was shot and injured, but unfortunately, it was this known gang member's own menacing actions of chasing Mr. Blake in the middle of the night and motioning as if he had a gun in his pocket that caused Mr. Santana to be shot in self-defense," attorney Abe George said.

Rev. Kevin McCall, a spiritual adviser for Santana and his family, refuted the claim that Santana has any gang affiliations.

"He is absolutely not in any gang," McCall said. "They're trying to discredit someone when they police thinks they are the victim. This is a clear cut case of a cop gone rouge, that's it."

The pre-dawn shooting allegedly occurred after Santana knocked on Blake's girlfriend apartment door seeking the return of his phone charger, which he claimed in the lawsuit he had lent to the woman earlier in the evening.

"Sgt. Blake opened the door and appeared inebriated," according to a federal civil lawsuit filed in January against the city, Blake and other unnamed NYPD officers. "He began cursing and screaming at Thavone for knocking on the door at 4 a.m."

Santana left the building to purchase another charger from a nearby convenient store, as Sgt. Blake followed "within steps" behind him and shouting for Santana to "stay away from his girl," according to the January lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that even though Santana assured the 41-year-old officer that he "wanted nothing to do" with his girlfriend and "was just trying to get his charger back," Blake opened fire, according to the lawsuit.

After the shooting, Blake told fellow officers that Santana tried to rob him and that he was acting in self defense.

As the ambulance transported Santana to a nearby hospital, police placed him under arrest and handcuffed him to the stretcher, a source familiar with the case told ABC News.

The following day, surveillance video near the scene allegedly told a different story.

As the pair were just feet apart from one another, Blake pulled out a gun and shot Santana, before attempting to "cover up his actions" by taking "knives out of his back pocket and plant(ing) them" on the bleeding Santana's body, according to the lawsuit and the video footage.

Blake allegedly leaned over to pick back up the object he threw onto Santana and said "I should've killed you," a source told ABC News. A razor blade was later found next to Santana.

According to the lawsuit, Blake has a history of violence.

"Sgt. Blake has a prominent and long history of violence, assaults and was the subject of Internal Affairs investigations of his actions in 2010, 2011 and 2016 and was disciplined for his violations of NYPD Policies."

Once the surveillance video surfaced, an internal investigation ensued and Blake was fired from the force.

"If the NYPD can fire him, then the district attorney can charge him," Rev. McCall said. "The family wants this officer behind bars, no community service, no fine to pay, but jail time."

Santana was hospitalized for several weeks after the shooting. One of the bullets that struck him in the face remains lodged in his spine.

(ABC News contributed to this report)

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