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Long IslandCrime

Hempstead teacher says she feared irate parent would kill her

On Thursday, April 28, 2016, a seventh-grade Hempstead math teacher who police said was assaulted and knocked unconscious by a parent last April took the stand in a Mineola trial. The parent, Annika McKenzie of Hempstead, faces charges of felony assault, misdemeanor trespassing, harassment and disorderly conduct. This surveillance video, which was entered into evidence at the trial, shows the altercation, which took place in a hallway at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School on April 15, 2015. (Credit: Hempstead school district)

A Hempstead Middle School math teacher who prosecutors say was assaulted by an irate parent testified Thursday that she thought she’d die.

Outside her seventh-grade classroom a year ago, Catherine Lang-Engelhardt, 59, said she was punched in the eye so hard she “bounced onto the wall.”

She said she felt the crease of an elbow in her throat as she was put into a chokehold, then slammed to the floor in a hallway, where she briefly lay unconscious.

“At one point, I was really scared,” the teacher told the jury. “I thought that she was going to choke me to death.”

Lang-Engelhardt was one of two prosecution witnesses who testified before acting State Supreme Court Justice Jerald S. Carter in Mineola.

Nassau prosecutors say Annika McKenzie, 35, of Hempstead, marched past school security on April 15, 2015 and attacked Lang-Engelhardt after learning that her seventh-grade daughter had been suspended. McKenzie is charged with felony assault, misdemeanor trespassing and other charges.

Her niece, then an eighth grader, punched Lang-Engelhardt as she was thrown to the ground, prosecutors said.

“The last thing I remember saying is, ‘Oh [expletive], she’s going to hit me,’ ” said Lang-Engelhardt, who suffered a concussion.

Assistant District Attorney Rachel Lasry showed several surveillance video clips, including one that showed the brief alleged assault in the crowded hallway.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Donald T. Rollock of Mineola had characterized Lang-Engelhardt as an “out of control” teacher who used a lacrosse stick to “slam” McKenzie’s daughter against a wall that day.

Rollock said McKenzie had rushed to the school to learn more after her daughter called to say Lang-Engelhardt had put her hands on her.

Another video clip viewed by jurors Thursday showed Lang-Engelhardt encountering several girls, including McKenzie’s daughter, in the hallway.

Safder Sadeiqui, a security guard, said he responded to the hall because the students were congregating and acting rowdy. He testified that he did not see Lang-Engelhardt strike a student with a lacrosse stick.

In another clip, McKenzie’s daughter can be seen walking behind Lang-Engelhardt as she and Sadeiqui confronted the students, with a vice principal nearby.

Sadeiqui said McKenzie’s daughter wasn’t initially with the other girls, “but then joined the group.”

“Because you need her to join the group,” Rollock told the witness, disputing that fact.

Lang-Engelhardt said she asked two of the students for their lacrosse sticks and asked the group who their English teacher was, but they refused to say. She denied striking McKenzie’s daughter.

A short time later, Lang-Englehardt said a teacher told her a parent was looking for her outside her classroom.

The teacher said she asked the parent, later identified as McKenzie, to get a security pass, but she “kept coming toward me,” prompting her to call for help.

Lang-Engelhardt said she was in pain when she regained consciousness, and ashamed that she had been “beaten up in front of the students.”

Rollock will continue cross-examining Lang-Engelhardt on Monday.

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