The victim of February’s false arrest, in which an officer allegedly lied saying the man attempted to run him over with his car, confronted Deputy Inspector Georgios Mastrokostas, commander of the 61st Precinct, last week demanding to know if the precinct can be trusted in the future.
John Hockenjos took to the floor of the 61st Precinct Community Council to face the precinct’s commanding officer, expressing shock about the incident and stating that he fears relying on the city police in the future.
The erroneous charges, which were dropped by the district attorney, could have put Hockenjos in prison for seven years. His wife still faces 15 days, and charges against her have not yet been dropped.
“I was facing, if convicted, seven years in prison, losing my livelihood, losing my property, losing everything I had, my finances and my freedom. Two officers planted themselves in my driveway. I could not even move my car,” a visibly distressed Hockenjos told Mastrokostas. “I want to know: is this a culture in the 6-1?”
Hockenjos added that the allegedly false charges weren’t the only thing that went wrong that evening. He said the police officers refused to tell him why he was being arrested until after he was held at the precinct. In previous instances in which they called police regarding their two-year feud with a neighbor over property, they said the officers refused to take a report, including in one case where his wife was assaulted.
The experience has caused him to distrust the local precinct, already dissuading him from calling 911 for vandalism and alleged gang activity on his property.
“I feel unprotected. I’m now afraid to call 911 … I’m afraid for my life,” Hockenjos said. “I can’t protect myself, commander. I can’t do it. All I can do is take pictures.”
On February 5, the 55-year-old East 23rd Street resident was arrested and charged with first and second degree reckless endangerment and reckless driving after police at the scene claimed he attempted to run them over with his car as they stood in his driveway.
The charges were dropped days later after Hockenjos revealed surveillance video suggesting the officer fabricated his report, which stated that Hockenjos drove into his driveway “at a high rate of speed,” which forced Officer Diego Palacios “to jump out of the way to avoid being hit” by the four-door sedan. The video showed Hockenjos slowly pulling into the driveway and stopping several feet before the police officers – who didn’t budge.
Diego Palacios and another officer are currently under investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau, have been relocated to a different precinct and are no longer on patrol, Sheepshead Bites is told.
Mastrokostas nor Hockenjos declined to discuss specifics of the case. Mastrokostas cannot comment on ongoing investigations, and Hockenjos has been advised by his lawyer to keep mum until the court matters are settled.
Still, Mastrokostas noted that he expects the most of his officers, and that Hockenjos and other members of the community shouldn’t hesitate to report crimes in the area.
“As far as the officers in the 6-1, I expect them to behave with the utmost professional attitude. We’re here to do a job – protect the community that we work in,” Mastrokostas said. “You shouldn’t feel hesitant about calling the police department. If the police respond and you feel they’ve acted inappropriately or did something wrong, I encourage you to call [Civilian Complaint Review Board] or the Internal Affairs Unit. It’s as easy as calling 311.”