From NYDailyNews.com (with video):
Four Bronx buddies are facing a year in jail for criminal possession of a weapon – a snowball that hit an off-duty transit cop.
The young men say they were horsing around in the late February storm when an errant snowball smacked Officer Adonis Ramirez in the leg.
Next thing they knew, he was waving a gun at them and calling for backup. Now they’re facing a slew of charges and readying a $10 million suit against the city.
“When I was in Central Booking, people asked me what I was locked up for, and I said a snowball,” said Johnathan Rodriguez, 22. “Everyone started laughing.”
The NYPD doesn’t think it’s a joke.
A police source said the cop, who was in street clothes, was barraged with snowballs and taunts and chased down the street “in a threatening manner.”
The Bronx district attorney has no plans to drop charges against the four friends, three of whom have prior arrests for minor incidents.
“You would think that the NYPD would focus on real crimes and not on young men playing in the snow during a nor’easter,” said lawyer Neil Wollerstein.
He’s planning to hit the city with a $10 million false arrest and malicious prosecution suit on behalf of the four and a 15-year-old pal who was arrested but had the charges dropped in Family Court.
“The DA’s office is prosecuting nonsense here.”
The group says Ramirez was the one who behaved badly – failing to identify himself as a cop when he pulled out a gun and ordered them to the ground.
“He screamed, ‘You don’t know who I am,'” said Manuel Rondon, 18, a student at Monroe College.
“He pulled out the gun and aimed it at me when he was 3 feet away. I thought he was going to kill me.”
“I thought he was some drug dealer who was going to shoot me in the head and walk away,” said Christian Perez, 19. “We only hit him once, and it was by mistake.”
Ariel Lopez, a 17-year-old senior at Jane Addams High School, said he and the others “were all really scared.”
Police sources said Ramirez, on the force since July 2003, was leaving a friend’s apartment when he encountered the group.
“After passing them, he’s hit in the back with several snowballs,” a police source said.
“He continues walking toward his car despite them yelling that he’s a bitch.”
After the cop heard the group run toward him, he identified himself as a cop and called 911, summoning officers who arrested the snowball-throwers, the source said.
The criminal complaint says Ramirez told cops someone in the group said, “Let’s jump him” in Spanish – though the defendants point out only one of them speaks the language.
Rodriguez, Rondon, Perez and Lopez were taken to the 44th Precinct stationhouse and charged with weapons possession, attempted assault, menacing and harassment.
Lopez and Rodriguez each have a prior arrest, but the charges were dismissed after they stayed out of trouble for a year. Rondon has a criminal trespassing case that was slated to be dismissed in May.
Rodriguez filed a civilian complaint against Ramirez, and he and his friends think the NYPD should discipline the jumpy cop.
“He shouldn’t be able to carry a gun again,” said Perez. “I don’t think he should be able work on the streets.”
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