The NYPD officer who tackled and wrongfully detained retired tennis star James Blake spoke publicly about the 2015 incident for the first time on Tuesday, testifying that he'd confused Blake with a possibly armed suspect, and charged him "as quickly as possible for the element of surprise."
Facing charges of excessive force brought by the Civilian Complaint Review Board [CCRB], Officer James Frascatore maintained that he handled the botched arrest correctly, citing safety concerns as a justification for the tackle and for not immediately identifying himself as a cop.
"I wanted to get control of the subject first," Frascatore said, according to the Post. "I was concerned about getting into an altercation in front of all that glass. My safety, his safety. Possibly going through that glass. Another concern I had was a foot pursuit on 42nd Street with all that vehicular and pedestrian traffic."
Jonathan Fogel, the CCRB prosecutor, pushed back on this explanation, the Times reports. He noted that Frascatore nearly caused an accident during his pursuit, and said that when the officer did eventually apprehend the intended suspect—a credit-scammer—he didn't check the man for weapons.
The trial comes after Frascatore rejected a plea deal earlier this summer that would've cost him 10 vacation days and allowed him to keep his job. While Blake had agreed to drop the suit in exchange for the creation of a CCRB fellowship, the deal collapsed over Frascatore's concern that he'd be open to more lawsuits in the future, according to his attorney Stephen Worth.
On Wednesday, Blake once again called for Frascatore's termination.
"What the world saw on that video is what people of color have been experiencing at the hands of the NYPD for far too long," Blake said in a statement. "Without warning or explanation, Officer Frascatore tackled me, slammed me to the ground and placed me in handcuffs, and nothing the defense can say will ever change the reality of unjustified excessive force that was used."
He added, "Again, I’m calling on Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner O'Neill to do what should have been done two years ago at the time of Officer Frascatore’s attack, and fire him from the police force."
According to a WNYC police misconduct investigation, Frascatore has a lengthy civilian complaint record, and once racked up five complaints in the span of seven months. Last year, the city paid out $40,000 to a Queens man who accused Frascatore of punching and kicking him.
Following the Blake incident, the Civilian Complaint Review Board—whose nonbinding recommendations have been repeatedly overruled by the NYPD Commissioner—determined that the Frascatore was guilty of excessive force and recommended departmental charges leading to his suspension or dismissal.
An NYPD judge will decide the outcome of Frascatore's trial, which continued on Wednesday with testimony from retired lieutenant and tactical trainer Daniel Modell. Any punishment will be determined by Commissioner James O'Neill.