A Brooklyn man was criminally charged with assault for allegedly biting off the fingertip of an NYPD sergeant inside the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica last month after he was arrested following a high-speed chase through Queens.
Lenni Rodriguez Cruz, 28, of Rutland Road in Prospect Lefferts Garden, was arraigned Oct. 11 in Queens Supreme Court on a 15-count indictment charging him with two counts of assault in the first degree; assault in the second degree; assault on a peace or police officer, fireman or emergency medical services professional; reckless endangerment in the first degree; obstructing governmental administration in the second degree; unlawful fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle in the third degree; two counts of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol; operating a motor vehicle while impaired by the combined use of drugs or of alcohol and drugs; reckless driving; operating a motor vehicle without wearing a safety belt; operating or driving a motor vehicle with improper license plates; operating or driving a motor vehicle without a license; leaving the scene of an incident without reporting.
According to the charges, on the night of Sept. 20, Rodriguez Cruz was observed by a police officer driving a blue 2009 Nissan Altima without a seat belt at the intersection of Liberty Avenue and Merrick Boulevard in St. Albans. When the officer, who was in full uniform and driving a marked police vehicle, found that the Nissan’s license plate was not registered to the vehicle, he turned on his lights and siren and attempted to get Rodriguez Cruz to pull over.
Rodriguez Cruz sped off, mounted a sidewalk and drove through Rufus King Park at 150th Street and Jamaica Avenue, scattering parkgoers who ran to safety, according to prosecutors. Rodriguez Cruz proceeded to drive the wrong way into oncoming traffic on Sutphin Boulevard and struck an occupied vehicle. He then entered the Grand Central Parkway, hit two vehicles and continued driving. The driver of one of the cars Rodriguez Cruz struck on the Grand Central Parkway needed to be treated at a local hospital for multiple injuries.
Rodriguez Cruz continued onto the Grand Central Parkway service road, where he slammed into an unmarked police vehicle that was part of a barricade set up to stop him, the charges state. The three officers who had been inside the police car were able to jump out just before impact.
When officers pulled Rodriguez Cruz out of his crashed car, he had bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred his speech and his breath smelled of alcohol, according to prosecutors. A clear plastic cup containing an alcoholic beverage was discovered inside his car. In evading police, Rodriguez Cruz failed to stop at approximately 20 steady red lights. Rodriguez Cruz was unable to provide a valid driver’s license, nor was there a record of him holding one.
Rodriguez Cruz was then taken to the 103rd Precinct, where he struck and spit on a sergeant attempting to place him in a holding cell. He then bit off the tip of the officer’s left ring finger, according to the charges. The sergeant required stitches and a revision amputation, leaving the officer without the use of his finger down to his first knuckle.
“The rule of law, and the officers who enforce it, will be respected,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “The defendant is accused of recklessly putting countless lives at grave risk, injuring a motorist and causing a grievous permanent injury to a police officer. The dangerous lawlessness seen here simply will not be tolerated or excused.”
Supreme Court Justice Toni Cimino ordered Rodriguez Cruz to return to court on November 15. He faces up to 25 years in prison, if convicted.