SOUNDVIEW, the Bronx — A man accused of inappropriately touching an EMS worker responding to a Bronx fire will not be charged because he was the victim of a “false narrative” and was actually suffering from a seizure, District Attorney Darcel Clark said.
On Jan. 28, EMS Chief Lillian Bonsignore said a young, female EMT was flagged down by someone in need of help at the scene of the fire that morning, something Bonsignore said is common for EMS workers.
When she was approached, the woman, 32, was inappropriately grabbed, Bonsignore said. The man was apprehended by NYPD.
But Wednesday, Clark said the man, 52, was instead suffering a seizure when he placed his hands on the female EMT.
“I will not tolerate assaults on first responders, who courageously serve our city, especially during this pandemic; and I will not prosecute anyone unless there is evidence to support charges,” Clark said. “After an intensive investigation, we have dismissed and will not charge forcible touching, sex abuse or felony assault on a police officer, firefighter or EMS professional, against [the man].”
Surveillance video shows him stagger and fall in a crosswalk at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Westchester Avenue as he walked to work at 7:06 a.m. on Jan. 28, the DA’s office said.
According to Clark’s office, a passerby stopped to assist the man and waved over first responders who were across the street on Westchester Avenue. A female EMT responded to the requests for help. The man is seen lying on the ground in the crosswalk and then grabbing the EMT’s clothing in what appears to be the throes of a seizure. The EMT moved his hand away without any assistance while covered in protective gear from head to toe. The man did not appear to have control of his hands.
The investigation also included interviews with people in the community who have seen the man suffer multiple seizures in the past, during which he grabbed at anything within reach. A review of medical records confirmed a history of seizures, the district attorney’s office said.
But FDNY EMS Local 2507 President Oren Barzilay said DA Clark was out of line and irresponsible
“In my view this video does not justify clearing him from assaulting our member,” Barzilay said. “A person with a serious medical condition does not just get up and walk away. Not only is this EMT a victim of sexual abuse, she is now a victim of the District Attorney’s office.”
After hearing Barzilay’s response, a spokesperson for the DA’s office said “The video speaks for itself.”
On the day of the incident, firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze that broke out at a commercial store along Westchester and St. Lawrence avenues in the Soundview neighborhood just after 6:10 a.m. on Jan. 28.
The fire started on the first floor and extended to the upper floor and adjoining stores, according to FDNY. Apartments appear to be on the upper floor of the building.
A total of seven businesses were affected.
No injuries were reported in the fire.
Kristine Garcia contributed.