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Police officer arrested in motorcyclist road rage assault

Law EnforcementUnrest, Conflicts and WarCrime, Law and Justice

NEW YORK -- Police arrested an undercover officer Tuesday on charges of rioting and criminal mischief in connection with the beating of a driver by a group of motorcyclists on a Manhattan street, a scene captured on video that continues to reverberate across the country.

The officer, Det. Wojciech Braszczok, 32, was charged Tuesday night, hours after another motorcycle rider was arraigned on charges of gang assault, assault and unlawful imprisonment. That rider, Craig Wright, 29, is one of six people -- including Braszczok -- so far charged in the attack.

[Updated, 6:47 p.m. Oct. 8: The sixth person, Clint Caldwell, 32, of New York, was charged later in the evening with gang assault, assault and criminal mischief.]

The criminal complaint against Wright said the video showed “five to six individuals” surrounding the SUV driver, Alexian Lien, as he lay on the ground after being dragged from his vehicle in upper Manhattan on Sept. 29. The video shows the individuals “strike at said driver with their helmets, kick, and stomp on said driver’s head and body,” the complaint said, indicating more arrests could be coming.

The motorcyclists, who were riding in a large group up the West Side Highway of Manhattan, have accused Lien, 33, of instigating the melee by hitting one of their group and then running over another rider as he tried to flee.

The rider who was run over, Edwin Mieses Jr., 32, suffered severe injuries; his wife has said he may be paralyzed.

Lien has not been charged, fueling anger among the motorcycle group. One of the riders said Tuesday that the video showing several riders smashing Lien’s car window with their helmets and dragging him out onto the street only tells part of the story.

Louis Castaldo told the local TV news show “Good Day New York” that the motorcyclists were only trying to stop Lien to tell him he had hit somebody and that the anger erupted after he sped off and ran over Mieses.

“If he'd just apologized and stopped and said, 'I'm sorry,' we would have probably forgiven him,” Castaldo said.

The police officer charged originally said he was too far back in the motorcycle pack to see the melee involving the SUV driver. But the New York Post reported Tuesday that additional video footage showed the officer among the people pummeling Lien’s vehicle.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

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