NEW YORK (PIX11) — After allegedly beating a Harlem man in his home, Officer Christian Zapata, in a letter to One Police Plaza, said he aspires to be the commissioner one day.
But now he’s facing a criminal charge and fighting to keep his badge. Zapata pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge on Wednesday in connection with the December 2022 incident.
Jerome Collins called police to his home for help and was ultimately pummeled in the head. The entire ordeal was captured on officer-worn cameras and cellphone video.
“This officer went buck wild and treated me like a dog in the street,” Collins said in an interview with PIX11. “These were actions not of a police officer, a public servant. They were actions of a criminal.”
Zapata and officers from the 32 Precinct were clearing the apartment for EMS to gain access around 7 p.m. that night.
The teenage son of Collins’ girlfriend was experiencing a mental health crisis. The 43-year-old man repeatedly asked officers to wear masks for his immunocompromised family.
Zapata said Collins was interfering with the arrest and warned he could be arrested. After over 10 minutes of arguing, a scuffle ensued in the cramped apartment hallway. Zapata is seen on video punching the man 13 times.
“If you’re a member of the public, is this someone you want to come and help you?” Attorney Neil Wollerstein asked.
He also filed a civil suit against the city and believes the criminal charge is weak.
“This is a slap on the wrist,” Wollerstein said.
Zapata was demoted to officer in August and is now suspended without pay, according to the NYPD.
In a written statement after the incident, Zapata wrote:
“It was and is paramount in my mind to immediately control such situations, protect both civilians and officers at these types of calls, and ensure that everyone leaves unharmed. That is what I was doing, and I believe my actions were necessary and justified.”Zapata
The Sergeants Benevolent Association also released a statement in support of Zapata.
“Pursuant to his training, Sgt. Zapata physically engaged with Collins, striking him until he complied with the instructions of the officers…we are confident that he will be cleared of these meritless accusations,” the SBA president said.
The assault charge carries a maximum of a year behind bars, if convicted. All of Collins’ charges from that night were dropped.