NYPD sergeant charged for allegedly assaulting 2 arrested suspects

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- An NYPD sergeant is facing charges for allegedly assaulting a suspect who called him anti-Asian slurs during an arrest and another who spit at him in a holding cell.

Phillip Wong is charged with assault and attempted assault in connection with two arrests in 2019 and in 2020.

The 37-year-old is accused of punching a 48-year-old man in a Harlem holding cell and attacking a 35-year-old man in a subway station on the Upper West Side.

The department says both incidents were caught on camera but not publicized until now.

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"When NYPD officers head into the field each day to face unknown and potentially life-threatening situations, they do one of the most difficult jobs in the world," District Attorney Cy Vance said. "But having sworn an oath to protect and serve their communities, those difficult jobs need to be carried out with the utmost integrity and professionalism, especially by officers in leadership. As alleged, this sergeant grossly violated his training and the law during the arrests of these two individuals, whose conduct did not justify these violent responses."

According to court documents, Wong was assigned to Transit District 3 when a group of officers brought a 48-year-old man and two other individuals to the precinct on West 145th Street for arrest processing.

He and two other officers escorted the man to the holding cells, and as the officers closed the cell door, the handcuffed man kicked the door one time and began spitting at them.

Wong allegedly pushed past the two officers, re-opened the door, and punched the man in the face.

The man was transported to the hospital and treated for a laceration above his right eye, which required stitches.

In the second incident, Wong was observing officers under his supervision at the subway station at West 96th Street and Broadway when an officer arrested a 35-year-old man after observing him punch another passenger on an arriving train.

As the officers led the man out of the station, he yelled obscenities and anti-Asian slurs at Wong, then kicked him in the leg when they reached the emergency exit.

Wong and another officer brought the man to the ground with his arms rear-cuffed, and Wong knelt on the man's back.

The man continued to taunt Wong and shouted, "I can't breathe."

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Wong allegedly responded, "I don't give a (expletive) if you can breathe or not" and punched the man in the side of the face.

He is then accused of placing both of his knees on the man's back and bouncing multiple times.

The man was taken to the hospital, where medical staff determined he had not sustained any physical injuries.

Wong's lawyer did not deny the accusations, but instead attempted to offer context.

"People in this city feel it's perfectly within their jurisdiction and right to simply call a cop anything they want," the attorney said. "And they're right. First Amendment protects free speech. But at some point, somebody's got to start to realize that cops aren't getting paid enough to have racial and ethnic slurs hurled in their faces every single time they step out of a police car."

Wong, a 15-year veteran of the force, is suspended without pay for 30 days. He pleaded not guilty.

"This is sort of the accepted standard in the city, that it's perfectly OK to call a cop whatever you want without consequence," the attorney said. "Handcuffed or not, we'll determine whether or not my client committed a crime when all the evidence is in."

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