Tarlach MacNiallais, 47, the Irish gay man living in Jackson Heights, Queens who was assaulted by employees of a nightclub there on Saturday December 5, has hit out at the behavior of some police officers that were the first responders at the scene.
“To be quite honest with you I am angrier about the police response on the night than the actions of two homophobic bigots who assaulted me,” MacNiallais told the Voice. “The police are charged with the duty of protecting you from assault from people like that. Those police officers did not do their duty.”
“Had I been attacked by one of the patrons of the club that would have been one thing, but the fact that it was actually the club’s security made it worse. And what makes it ten times worse again was the police officers actions when they arrived on the scene. Their conduct and their abusive language made me the angriest of all.”
MacNiallais, originally from Belfast, had been punched and kicked and had a chair smashed over his head in an attack by two employees of at the Guadalajara De Noche restaurant in Jackson Heights at 12:43 A.M. on Saturday.
“I was still being dragged though the restaurant by the two nightclub employees when the police arrived on the scene,” MacNiallais said. “They told my partner Juan and his three brothers to leave the club first and they told them to stay off to the side of the street, away from me.”
What happened next startled MacNiallais and his family. He was placed in handcuffs, he alleges, and then made to lie down on the ground. “The police put me in handcuffs, they dragged me outside and they put me on the sidewalk, face down. When I tried to explain to them what had happened to me, that I had been assaulted because I was dancing with my partner, they refused to let me speak.”
One officer in particular, MacNiallais says, was pointedly abusive. “One officer kept yelling in my face “Shut the f—k up, shut the f—k up!” My partner and his brothers had come over to check on me but another police officer kept them back, telling them “You can’t go near him, just stay there,” added MacNiallais.
MacNiallais was left on the ground for twenty minutes, he alleges, while the officers talked to employees of the Guadalajara De Noche restaurant. “I have no idea why they responded to me like this. At first there were about 18 police officers on the scene. I think when they realized that I wasn’t an aggressor most of them left and there were only four police officers left.”
MacNiallais says he knows at this point the police were talking to one of the employees who had assaulted him. The other assailant, MacNiallais says, stayed well away from the round of police interviews, watching from a distance.
“I was kept face down on the sidewalk the whole time. I was not allowed to explain the situation to anyone. Whenever I tried to talk I was told to shut up. One particular cop went beyond that by swearing at me repeatedly.”
Eventually, MacNiallais says, a female police officer allowed him to give his version of events. At this point he was released from handcuffs without charge. A nearby ambulance was waiting to transport him for treatment after the assault. But when MacNiallais asked for his partner to join him in the ambulance he was refused.
“No one is going with you in the ambulance, the police said. When Juan tried to get into the ambulance they would not let him. When Juan explained to the officer that they were all members of his family they replied, “No one is going with him.”
MacNiallais was so disturbed by the actions of the police by this point that he decided he would not travel to the hospital without his partner. He got out of the ambulance and refused to go. Meanwhile, MacNiallais, another police officer told Juan’s brothers that they should simply leave the scene before the police chief arrived, or they would be in trouble.
“My brother’s in law and my partner and I all left. They took me home. They did not arrest my assailants, even though it was my brother in law who had called them to the scene. They did not afford me the opportunity to make a report about the assault, even though I asked them to.
They refused to bring me for medical attention because I did not want to go alone. And, from what I was told by the Police Internal Affairs Department, any time they put someone in cuffs there needs to be some sort of report written, but Internal Affairs are having a really tough time finding it, or finding out who the police officers I encountered were. I was told no report was filed.”
MacNiallais is at pains to point out that he is not attacking the NYPD in general. There are, he says, a majority of fair and decent police officers. When he called the police the morning after the assault he was well treated. He also received a call, he says, from John Lavelle, the Commanding Officer of the 115 precinct apologizing for what he called the disrespectful treatment of some officers.
“He apologized, he asked if I was doing better, and to assure me he would do everything in his power to make sure the police who were disrespectful would be investigated. It was the particular officers that I encountered who were not doing their duty to address the fact that I had been assaulted. They did not allow me to file charges, they arrested no one, and they refused to allow my partner to travel with me to the hospital even though I have the right to request that.”
Releasing MacNiallais without charge on the night of the assault proves, he says, that he was not disorderly or in the wrong in any way. However he also believes they failed in their duty to protect him. “That’s scandalous behavior. To be quite honest with you I am angrier about the police response on the night than the actions of two homophobic bigots who assaulted me. Those police officers did not do their duty.”
When you call 911 you expect to be protected, MacNiallais said. “At a minimum, you would expect the cops to intervene and deal with the assailants that had attacked you. I was humiliated in front of my family. I was placed face down in handcuffs on the sidewalk. That’s a bigger injustice than the attack.”
Currently the Hate Crimes division of the NYPD, at the urging of City Speaker Christine Quinn and incoming Councilman Danny Dromm, are investigating the case, MacNiallais says. “My fear was that the police would not treat it seriously, but it is being treated seriously. The officers in that division are doing what they need to do right now.”
A spokesperson for the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information (DCPI) at the NYPD confirmed that an investigation into the attack is underway and as the case is ongoing that no further information is available at this time.
Erik Bottcher, the LGBT community liaison at the New York City Council, told the Voice:
“We are concerned about the report and if its true it shows we have more work to do on police training. We’re working with the LGBT advisory committee to the NYPD that meets regularly with the Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and we hope that this issue will be taken up at that committee at their next meeting. I don’t know if the individuals officers have been identified but the Internal Affairs Bureau report was filed and the investigation is under way.”