A New York woman said that she was held by police for nearly three days after an altercation with a police officer who she says called her a "dyke" and, after she responded, attacked her.
Stephanie Dorceant said that was on her way home from a concert in Brooklyn Saturday morning with her girlfriend, when she encountered the off-duty police officer. Dorceant, 29, was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer, the public information officer at the Brooklyn 63rd Precinct Police confirmed.
A spokesperson for the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office told BuzzFeed News that they are aware of Dorceant's hate crime allegation and "are in the process of investigating it in its entirety."
The New York City Police Department's Deputy Commissioner of Public Information told BuzzFeed News that there is an active internal investigation occurring at this time.
On Monday, Dorceant took to social media to tell her story of the assault and imprisonment, posting pictures of her wounds and torn clothes. They gained a significant amount of attention before she removed them on the advice of her lawyer, she said.
"On July 11 I was in Brooklyn, where I live and work, when, out of nowhere, a large man bumped me from behind," Dorceant said at a press conference Thursday. "I asked if the person was OK; he immediately started to curse me out using a lot of homophobic slurs."
She recalled in the statement that the officer said, "Mind your own business, you fucking dyke."
"I didn't feel like I said anything to merit that type of response, so I asked him to watch how he speaks to me — he immediately shoved me … grabbed me, started attacking me," she said in the statement.
Dorceant and her girlfriend, Nandi Allman, 26, are both shorter than 5 feet 6 inches and under 115 pounds.
They guess that the officer, who they have now identified as Salvator Aquino, was around 6 feet tall and 200 pounds.
The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office confirmed that Aquino was off duty at the time.
Dorceant said she "didn't see a badge, a gun, anything."
"I was screaming, my girlfriend was screaming, he was punching me in the face and had me in a chokehold," Dorceant told reporters. "I kept telling him he didn't need to do this, that he needed to let me go, but I could tell he didn't want to."
In her statement, Dorceant said that when the officer had his hands around her neck.
"The only way I could get him to stop attacking me and my girlfriend was to bite him," she said.
Allman, who was also present at the news conference, said that as Dorceant was allegedly being beaten by Aquino, she could see their taxi driver, who had dropped them off in the parking lot of the Brooklyn 63rd Precinct just minutes before, standing there staring.
"He was yelling, 'Call the cops,'" Allman said. It was then, after Aquino had been beating Dorceant and fighting off Allman, that he finally told them he was a police officer, the women said.
"When other police officers showed up I thought we were saved," Dorceant said in her statement. "That was not the case....Instead of helping me and my girlfriend and arresting our attacker, more officers piled on top of me, slamming me onto the pavement and putting their knees on my neck."
Dorceant alleged she was never read her rights.
The officers then put both of the women into handcuffs and into a precinct holding cell. Allman said she was released after 20 minutes, while Dorceant says that, after being briefly treated at a nearby hospital, she was moved to Rikers Island jail complex and held for nearly three days, her lawyers said in a statement. Dorceant said in the press conference that she was diagnosed with muscle bruising and head trauma.
"I didn't know what time it was; I barely knew what day it was," Dorceant said of her night in Rikers. "I was stuck into a room with 50 other women. It was honestly like being in a concentration camp. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."
After her $1,000 bail had been posted by her girlfriend, Dorceant learned she was charged with two felonies for attempted assault and assault of a police officer.
Six months later all charges against Dorceant were dropped, along with the lawsuit she filed against the city.
The criminal complaint against Dorceant, obtained by BuzzFeed News, claimed she followed officer Aquino to his parked police car and began to punch him in the face.
The complaint alleged that Dorceant touched Aquino's arm as he was on the way to his car in the 63rd precinct parking lot, then followed him to his car and assaulted him.
Aquino then announced he was a police officer and told Dorceant she was under arrest, the complaint read, after which she began "struggling and ... proceeded to bite [Aquino] repeatedly about the arms, chest, finger, and torso, breaking [Aquino]'s skin," for which the complaint stated he was made to seek medical attention.
On top of the two felonies, Dorceant was also charged with resisting arrest, manacing, and harassment in the second degree.
Dorceant said she believes Aquino attacked her because of her sexuality.
At Thursday's court hearing, Allman noted that, according to his statement, which was read aloud, Aquino "thought he had HIV" because Dorceant bit him.
Dorceant rolled her eyes at the idea, adding, "I did take an HIV test. I am negative."
Aquino's report also said, Allman recounted, that the couple was fighting when he approached them and that there was a third person. Allman and Dorceant both said that this could not be further from the truth, as they were in high spirits after what they described as an "awesome show."
Dorceant also mused that the third person Acquino said in his report they were fighting with — which the couple assured the press did not exist — may have been his "imaginary friend."
In a statement released Thursday, Dorceant added:
Even though I am well aware of the many stories about police brutality, especially against blacks, Hispanics, and the LGBT community, I never really thought that this could happen to me.
I want to share my story and say that police brutality is a real thing. Hate crimes are a real thing. Both of these things happened to me.
Enough is enough.
A friend of the couple set up a crowdfunding site to help Dorceant pay legal and hospital fees. Allman wrote a statement for the site upon her friend's request, referring to the #BlackLivesMatter movement that has gained steam in the past year.
The disregard for Black lives, specifically Black women, that the criminal justice system in this country has is completely unacceptable. You see the stories on the news, but you never think it will happen to you. But now it has happened to me, and I will be vigilant. ... But today the real battle begins. #BlackLivesMatter #sayhername.
Dorceant's lawyer Benjamin Moore told BuzzFeed News that he is "pretty confident that we will clear Stephanie's name."
Dorceant's case has been put on a felony dismissal calendar, Moore said, which means that the case will be dismissed in January if nothing else occurs that would need to be taken into consideration by the court.
Another attorney representing Dorceant said investigators told them that none of the surveillance cameras in the area appear to have captured the alleged attack.
However, Moore said he's confident the case will be dismissed earlier, as it is obvious the charges "make no sense."
Moore added that Dorceant will likely seek damages from the New York Police Department after the case is dismissed.
Benjamin Zeman, another lawyer representing Dorceant, said she had not filed a formal complaint against the officer, as she has been advised by the DA's office not to speak to any members of the NYPD. Womble added that an internal investigation is occurring within the NYPD per protocol, but they are not relying on it for any valuable information.
"We're at a tipping point here with the NYPD in this city," Womble told the press. "We can put a [Civilian Complaint Review] behind the CCRB and another behind them, but all we really need is cops to stop being bullies."
Dorceant is a writer and producer and filmmaker, who works as a bartender and barista in Brooklyn to "support her creative endeavors," she said.
She hails from Miami and has been profiled by multiple fashion and film blogs for her art and personal style.
She has lived in New York City for five years and attended Florida State University..
She and Allman, who is also originally from Florida, live together in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Allman works in fashion and in the music industry. The two were on their way home from a show Allman's friend was playing as part of Afropunk Music Festival when the alleged assault occurred.
This story has been updated to include the criminal complaint against Dorceant.
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at email@example.com.
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