Friday, December 24, 2010
NYPD lieutenant who ID'd wrong man as shooter has cost city $500G in settlements
An NYPD lieutenant who identified the wrong person as the gunman who fired at cops has been named in eight federal suits that have cost the city more than $500,000 in settlements.
Lt. Robert Henderson will soon be a defendant in a ninth suit - this one filed by Shane Rhooms, who prosecutors cleared of attempted murder charges this week.
"The number of lawsuits and settlements suggest there's something troubling about this officer's history," Rhooms' lawyer, Brett Klein, said Thursday.
Henderson has been sued in federal court in Brooklyn and Manhattan as far back as 2001, but he isn't the only cop accused in the complaints of false arrest, illegal search and seizure or other constitutional violations.
In two suits, the city declined to cover Henderson's liability, and he was forced to cough up a total of $1,250 to the plaintiffs.
The city forked over settlements ranging from $10,000 to $225,000 in other suits, court records show.
"It seems clear to me he has made multiple false arrests in the hope of finding contraband," said lawyer Leo Glickman, who has sued Henderson on behalf of clients five times.
Sources said Henderson is an active cop who has won commendations for taking illegal guns off the toughest streets in Brooklyn.
"The lieutenant put his life on the line, which is more than a plaintiff's lawyer will do," said Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne.
The 13-year veteran told the Daily News he didn't know how many suits he'd faced, and declined further comment.
Henderson, Lt. Robert Ortlieb and Sgt. Joseph Seminara identified Rhooms as the gunman who started shooting after they spotted him smoking pot on Lenox Road in East Flatbush on Sept. 6.
Seminera later picked Rhooms out of a photo array, and all three identified him in a lineup.
But the 22-year-old had an alibi: surveillance video caught him entering Webster Hall in Manhattan for a reggae concert.
Phone records also confirmed incoming and outgoing calls from Rhooms' phone to a Manhattan transmission tower around the time of the shooting in Brooklyn.
"The fact they could all be so wrong in the identification suggests there was collusion by the three [cops]," Klein said.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said investigators stand by the original identification and think Rhooms was the shooter regardless of what prosecutors say.
If Rhooms had been convicted of the crime, he would have faced 45 years in prison.
Henderson supervises cops in the 75th Precinct in East New York, one of the busiest police stations in the city.
NYPD Deputy Chief Michael Marino testified in a 2006 deposition that Henderson's anti-crime unit in the 77th Precinct was receiving a lot of civilian complaints for "abuse of authority."
Marino attributed the complaints to the officers "being too professional" during car stops