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NYC officer arrested in alleged sexual attack on suspect


August 14, 1997
Web posted at: 4:29 a.m. EDT (0829 GMT)

From Correspondent Maria Hinojosa

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A police officer surrendered Wednesday night to face charges of sexually brutalizing a Haitian with a toilet plunger while the man was being held in custody.

"They said, 'Take this, nigger,'" 30-year-old Abner Louima said in an interview from the hospital. Louima, who was arrested Saturday after a fight broke out at a local nightclub, was in critical condition after surgery to repair a puncture in his small intestine and an injury to his bladder.

The officer, Justin Volpe, 25, turned himself into Internal Affairs just before 10 p.m. Wednesday, a police spokeswoman said.

Deputy Inspector Michael Collins said Volpe would be charged with aggravated sexual abuse and first-degree assault. Collins also said charges against Louima relating to the nightclub fight were being dropped.

Another officer involved in the case, identified by a police source as Thomas Bruder, 31, was assigned to desk duty. Collins said only Volpe faced charges Wednesday night.

Club Rendez-vous


The events leading to the alleged torture began early Saturday morning in front of Club Rendez-vous, a Brooklyn dance club where many of New York's Haitian community gather to relax and unwind.

Unfortunately for Louima, he became involved in a confrontation outside the club.

Louima was one of two men who police said interfered with officers trying to break up a fight between two women outside a nightclub called Club Rendez-vous. Both were arrested on charges of assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing justice.

Louima's lawyer says his client was assaulted by police and then arrested. The police say Louima threw a punch at an officer first.

According to Louima's story though, police yelled racial epithets, put Louima in a patrol car and beat him several times before taking him to the 70th Precinct station house.

'Someone should have known'

It was there that Louima says the officers pulled down his pants and led him to the bathroom, where they allegedly sodomized him with the plunger and then jammed the handle in his mouth.

Louima's attorney, Brian Figeroux, says the alleged abuse should not have occurred considering the number of officers in the station house at the time.

"There were four police officers beating, and there were two officers in the bathroom, and many police officers at the precinct seeing what was going on. Someone should have known and stopped this from happening," he said.

Mayor Rudolph Guiliani and New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir, usually quick to defend the police, are reacting differently in this case.

"These allegations are shocking," Guiliani said. "The alleged conduct involved is reprehensible done by anyone at any time. Allegedly done by police officers, it's even more reprehensible."

Safir agreed.

"This police commissioner and this mayor, I know, will tolerate no racism, no abuse, no undo force or unprofessionalism by any police officer and we're not going to tolerate it in this case," he said.

Family members said Louima, a security guard who moved to New York from Haiti six years ago, had no bruises or injuries at the time of his arrest.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who is running for mayor, stood beside Louima's family offering up his opinion, part of a city-wide outcry, about the incident.

"The climate in this city has added to police feeling they could get away from such perverted acts. They need to be arrested. There is no reason, none, that you can justify torturing a human being in a civilized society," Sharpton said.

For his part Louima, says he used to like cops. That is, until this happened.

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