WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan – An NYPD officer has been indicted on suspicion of illegally searching a young woman, falsely arresting her friend then lying about it, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said Tuesday.
Officer Jonathan Munoz, 32, of Suffern, is suspended without pay pending the criminal proceedings and while an Internal Affairs investigation continues, officials said. Munoz has been on the force since 2006.
He faces two counts each of felony offering a false instrument for filing, and misdemeanor official misconduct; he faces one count of making a punishable false written statement, a misdemeanor.
PIX11 News reached out to NYPD for comment but has not yet received a response.
Prosecutors said Munoz approached a 20-year-old near West 183rd Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue on March 12, 2014. The officer told investigators he stopped the woman because he was suspicious she’d just bought marijuana.
That’s when the woman’s friend pulled out his cellphone and started to record the encounter, officials said. Officer Munoz grabbed the man’s arm then grabbed for his phone. The man was detained and cuffed, then put in the back of the patrol car while officers tossed his phone into the street and drove off, prosecutors said.
In statements and in paperwork filed with the NYPD and the Manhattan DA’s office, Munoz claimed the man went into a “fighting stance” before lunging at him and trying to punch him, prosecutors said.
The man was ultimately charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
But three surveillance cameras from a nearby restaurant told a starkly different story.
“Without the video in this case, that police statement would’ve been the only thing that the district attorney would’ve been able to rely on,” said Daniel Sanchez, of the Justice Committee.
Sanchez said accusations of false accounts made during and after arrests are not uncommon.
“We hear from the community all the time and we see these false arrests,” he said, adding that it’s usually the officer’s word against the suspect’s account of the encounter.