NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Cell phone video recently made public shows a White off-duty New Rochelle police officer brutally assaulting an unarmed Black man as on-duty officers restrain the man and then the officer.
The video — part of a court filing of criminal charges against the officer — raises serious questions not only about the officer’s conduct but the New Rochelle PBA and dozens of fraternal police organizations who have put out a false narrative defending the officer.
Malik Fogg, aged 38, an emotionally disturbed Black man from Mount Vernon, NY, was arrested in nearby New Rochelle, NY on February 15, 2021.
Fogg was involved in a road rage incident with his mother and, separately, with an off-duty police officer.
Fogg was charged with Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, Stalking in the Third Degree, Criminal Mischief in the Fourth Degree, Harassment in the Second Degree, and New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law violations.
After an Internal Affairs investigation, the New Rochelle Police Department determined off-duty New Rochelle Police Detective Michael Vaccaro had acted inappropriately, suspended him for 30 days without pay (the maximum in New York State), and referred the case to Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah, a former MSNBC legal analyst.
Last week, Rocah charged Vaccaro with two counts of attempted assault in the third degree, both misdemeanors. He is expected to make his first court appearance later this week.
The decision to charge Vaccaro resulted in howls of anger from local police associations who have aggressively defended Vaccaro’s actions, accused Rocah of “hunting cops”, and portrayed Vaccaro as a hero.
Rocah, who won election by promising to hold police officers accountable, condemned the “inflammatory and irresponsible language” which, she said, crossed a dangerous line.
“Officer Vaccaro, who was off-duty, observed and intervened in a violent domestic dispute when he lured an out of control suspect away from his intended victim (his elderly mother) and provided her an opportunity to flee to safety”, said New Rochelle PBA President Christopher Greco.
“Detective Vaccaro’s actions in dealing with a violent and aggressive suspect were clearly justified and reasonable,” said Affiliated Police Associations of Westchester President Keith Olson, which represents 4,000 officers. “This statement is supported by video evidence and eyewitness testimony.”
Except it's not.
Days after widely disseminating their false narrative on social media and local news outlets, the police associations were caught off guard when Talk of the Sound obtained two damning video recordings through a public records request.
Surveillance video from the gas station shows Vaccaro made no attempt to intervene or otherwise protect anyone, except himself.
Fogg, involved in a road rage incident with his mother, gets out of his vehicle and slams his hand on her windshield as she drives off. Fogg observes Vaccaro recording him and pursues him on foot. As Vaccaro drives off — striking Fogg, then striking a car stopped at a traffic light — Fogg returns to his vehicle and gives chase.
The chase came to an end a half-mile away, with Fogg taken into police custody.
Cell phone video of the arrest taken by a witness shows Vaccaro engaging Fogg in a verbal altercation as on-duty officers work to get Fogg under control. Vaccaro exits his vehicle to confront Fogg, announcing, “I’m an off-duty cop.” Fogg is heard violently threatening Vaccaro for recording him.
As officers restrain Fogg, Vaccaro physically inserts himself into the arrest.
Vaccaro approaches Fogg and grabs for him, Fogg raises his hand in a fist. Vaccaro strikes Malik Fogg, multiple times with his fist and kicks at his head. An officer releases Fogg to restrain Vaccaro as a second officer draws his taser and orders Fogg to comply.
“Don’t tase me, bro,” said Fogg repeatedly, taking a knee.
As another officer moves to handcuff Fogg, Vaccaro returns, grabs Fogg’s head and shoves it into the sidewalk. He presses Fogg’s head into the pavement for 12 seconds, until an on-duty officer, noticing the cell phone camera, tells Vaccaro, “back off”.
The Affiliated Police Associations of Westchester has praised Vaccaro and denounced Rocah.
“The decision to arrest this decorated, veteran police officer was disgraceful and only works to undermine a crucial relationship between police officers and the prosecutor’s office.”
Vaccaro was appointed to the Department on August 1, 2005, and promoted to Detective on December 15, 2017. He is a member of the Special Investigations Unit. Vaccaro is the recipient of the Police Commissioner’s Award, eight Class C Citations, two Unit Citations, a Commendation Award, a Lifesaving Award and the Municipal Housing Award. He was named Officer of the Month for December 2018.
Based on police disciplinary records seen by Talk of the Sound, Vaccaro has one of the worst disciplinary records in the history of the New Rochelle Police Department. He has been the subject of 17 Internal Affairs Investigations resulting in 9 Letters of Reprimand, the Loss of 15 Leave Days, a 10-Day Suspension, as well as an order to undergo Retraining based on a Civilian Complaint in 2020. He was suspended for 30-days without pay in February and remains suspended, with pay.
On Friday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman offered support for Rocah, calling Vaccaro a vigilante cop who acted in anger and rage.