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Long IslandCrime

Hempstead teachers describe witnessing parent attack colleague

Two colleagues of Hempstead middle school math instructor

Two colleagues of Hempstead middle school math instructor Catherine Lang-Engelhardt, above, testified Monday they saw a parent wrap an arm around the teacher's neck and throw her to the ground. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Two teachers at a Hempstead middle school testified Monday they witnessed a parent wrapping an arm around the neck of another teacher just before the instructor dropped to the floor.

“She was lying there unconscious. She was not moving at all. She was lying there a long time,” teacher Joseph Creighton said, referring to his colleague, Catherine Lang-Engelhardt.

Parent Annika McKenzie is on trial in County Court in Mineola on charges of assaulting Lang-Engelhardt, 59, last year.

Creighton said he saw a student, an eight-grader and McKenzie’s niece, punch Lang-Englehardt while McKenzie held the teacher around the neck.

Prosecutors say McKenzie, 35, a Hempstead resident, went to Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School on April 15, 2015 and assaulted the teacher. McKenzie had gone to the school because a teacher had put her hands on her daughter, according to a statement she made to police at the time of her arrest.

Witnesses said Monday that students were being moved from room to room that day because it was a test day. Teacher Robert Graziosi testified he was escorting a group of students when he saw the altercation outside Lang-Englehardt’s classroom. He said he saw McKenzie slap the teacher in the face twice, grab her around the neck and slam her to the ground.

“This happened very quickly,” Graziosi said. “It was hit, hit, just down.”

At the same time, McKenzie’s niece, whose was charged as a juvenile in the case, punched Lang-Engelhardt and then kicked her while she was on the floor, he said.

School principal Hank Williams testified he was in his office when he heard about the altercation. He said he noticed “a parent without a badge,” which visitors must get at the security desk at the only public entrance to the school.

“She expressed to me that a teacher had pushed her and she pushed her back,” Williams said.

Defense attorney Donald T. Rollock of Mineola attempted to elicit testimony that Lang-Engelhardt had at other times put her hands on students, but the two teachers and the principal said they had never heard about such behavior.

Lang-Engelhardt, who took the witness stand Thursday, finished her testimony Monday. Rollock questioned whether she was testifying that McKenzie had her in a headlock or a chokehold.

“She had my neck in a chokehold. To be clear, my neck was in a chokehold,” the teacher replied.

The jury trial before Justice Jerald S. Carter resumes Tuesday.

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