Former homeless services police sergeant charged with assaulting man seeking services at Manhattan shelter

NEW YORK — A former New York City homeless services police sergeant was arrested Thursday and charged with assaulting a man seeking services at a shelter.

Cordell Fitts was released on $100,000 bail after his arrest on a federal charge of using excessive force.

His lawyer, Julia Gatto, declined to comment.

Prosecutors said the 34-year-old former peace officer assaulted an unidentified man who sought help at a Manhattan homeless shelter in March 2017.

Prosecutors said Fitts put his hands on the man’s chest, who in return swung fists at Fitts.

They said the man was taken to the floor by officers, with two officers holding him down as Fitts kicked, punched and stomped him on the head more than 10 times.

According to court papers, Fitts backed away for about 10 seconds as two other officers tried to put handcuffs on the victim, who was face-down on the floor. Prosecutors said Fitts then returned to punch the victim in the head area two additional times.

Afterward, prosecutors said, Fitts dictated a report in which he said he used necessary force to “safely detain” the man.

They said Fitts included false statements in his report, including alleging that the victim said: “I am off my psych medication and going through a lot.”

The New York City Department of Homeless Services police department is made up of peace officers who are not permitted to carry guns. It is not part of the New York Police Department.

If convicted of charges of using excessive force and filing a false report, Fitts could face up to 30 years in prison.

During Fitts’ court appearance, a prosecutor provided Gatto with a copy of a videotape of the altercation.

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