Daily News: Drop the charges, Bronx DA urged in letter from lawyer for woman blinded by female cop during arrest

Johanna Pagan-Alomar, 45, claims she was brutally assaulted by a female police officer following the arrest of her friend. She claims the female officer pinned her down to the ground and punched her in her eye repeatedly and destroyed her eyeball with a handcuff key in the officer’s fist. Bronx, New York, Thursday March 21, 2019 (Jesse Ward / New York Daily News)

Johanna Pagan-Alomar, 45, claims she was brutally assaulted by a female police officer following the arrest of her friend. She claims the female officer pinned her down to the ground and punched her in her eye repeatedly and destroyed her eyeball with a handcuff key in the officer’s fist. Bronx, New York, Thursday March 21, 2019 (Jesse Ward / New York Daily News)

By Rocco Parascandola
March 25, 2019

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark was urged Monday to drop charges against a 45-year-old woman who has accused a female cop of beating and blinding her as she was arrested for asking why her friend had been handcuffed.

Johanna Pagan-Alomar was busted June 7 and charged with assault, obstructing governmental administration and harassment. The DA has offered Pagan-Alomar a deal — plead to disorderly conduct, which is a violation, and serve no jail time.

Her Legal Aid lawyer, Nicolas Schumann-Ortega, said the charges should have been dropped months ago, and in a letter he urged Clark to drop them now.

“Given the severity of Ms. Pagan’s life-altering injuries, we are asking that your office immediately dismiss the charges against her, and to charge Officer Lustica criminally for this horrific assault,” the letter said. “Ms. Pagan deserves justice and Officer Lustica’s continued employment with the NYPD only serves to endanger the community that she purportedly serves.”

A spokeswoman for the DA’s office confirmed receipt of the letter. “We will look into the allegation of excessive force and welcome the cooperation of the defendant in this matter,” the spokeswoman said.

Officer Theresa Lustica said in court papers that Pagan-Alomar shoved her, knocking her off-balance, after questioning the officer about the drug possession arrest of her friend Andy Rodriguez, 35.

But video contradicts the officer’s account, and Pagan-Alomar said the only force used was when Lustica threw her to the ground, pinned her arms to the sidewalk with her legs, then pummeled her with punches, while a handcuff key was protruding from her right fist. The blows knocked Pagan-Alomar’s left eye from its socket and broke the orbital bone.

Doctors couldn’t save her eye and had to remove it.

Pagan-Alomar admitted following Lustica and Officer Konti Markvukaj as they brought Rodriguez to their radio car, but she said it was to chastise Lustica for cursing and disrespecting her.

Pagan-Alomar has sued Lustica, Markvukaj and the NYPD.

A police source said Lustica has had no disciplinary issues in her nearly five years on the force, and that she has made more than 150 arrests.

She and her partner work in the 46th Precinct as NCOs — neighborhood coordination officers — tasked with fighting crime, in part by strengthening ties with members of the community, from residents to merchants and civic leaders.

The Internal Affairs Bureau cleared Lustica of any wrongdoing, saying she did not use excessive force.

Schumann-Ortega said that conclusion was reached without a full interview of Pagan-Alomar, who a day after the incident, and while groggy from painkillers, signed a form given to her by the bureau in which she said she didn’t want to file a complaint against Lustica.

The Legal Aid lawyer also noted in the letter to Clark that the cops did not immediately call the Emergency Medical Service.

Instead, they took Pagan-Alomar to the stationhouse, where a captain ordered them to drive her to the hospital. A medical expert who reviewed Pagan-Alomar’s records said the delay — one hour and 18 minutes from the time of the incident to when she arrived at St. Barnabas Hospital — may have cost doctors the chance to save her sight.

“In medicine, the term ‘time is tissue’ applies to this type of trauma, as each second counts towards regaining full function,” the expert said, according to Schumann-Ortega’s letter.

Police said the officers called EMS from the scene, but the FDNY, which oversees the EMS, said there was no such call that day at the location of the incident, Jerome and E. Burnside Aves.

Pagan-Alomar is scheduled to get a prosthetic eye, possibly this week. She said that in the car ride to the stationhouse, Lustica begged her forgiveness — something she can’t get herself to do.

“This,” Pagan-Alomar said, “does not have God’s forgiveness.”