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Man arrested after punching driver, officer during robbery, police say

James Martins of East Meadow, was arrested Tuesday

James Martins of East Meadow, was arrested Tuesday and charged with assault and robbery, police said. Credit: Howard Schnapp

An East Meadow man was arrested Tuesday and charged with assault and robbery after he "brutally attacked" a woman in the face and took her cellphone, then punched a police officer while resisting arrest in Levittown, police said.

James Martins, 34, of Kenmore Street, was arraigned Wednesday and is due back in court on Friday. Both victims were taken to a hospital, Nassau County police said in a news release.

The woman, 36, was driving a Chrysler Town & Country minivan west near 2665 Hempstead Tpke. in Levittown about 3:30 p.m. when she saw a man throw a large rock at her vehicle, damaging the front passenger's side, police said.

Prosecutors alleged in charging papers that the rock struck her right front headlight and hood area and then bounced off her windshield. 

After the woman pulled over, got out and questioned the man’s behavior, the man approached and punched her in the face while she was on the phone with 911, police said.

When she fell to the ground, he took the phone and again punched her in the face, leading her to lose consciousness, police said. Regaining consciousness, she tried to get up, but the man continued hitting her in the face, police said.

“She was knocked out cold for more than a minute,” Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said Wednesday at a news conference, noting that police believe Martins was intoxicated and may have a “cognitive disorder.”

“I think he just chose his victim at random,” he said.

When a group of people began yelling at the suspect, he fled, police said. Ryder called the community’s response “crucial” to stopping the attack before police arrived.

“We’d love to have a cop standing on every corner in Nassau County; it’s just not feasible,” he said.

The woman then went to the minivan to check on her 3-year-old daughter in the rear of the vehicle, police said. The child was not harmed.

“The 3-year-old child had to watch this assault on her mother,” Ryder said.

The woman suffered a concussion and was treated at a hospital for a leg injury, bloody nose, and cuts and bruises on her face and head, police said.

Prosecutors alleged in charging papers that Martins struck her in the face and head about a dozen times, causing injuries that required three stitches to her scalp and an overnight stay at Nassau University Medical Center. Her phone, an iPhone 8, was broken during the robbery, prosecutors said in charging papers. 

Video surveillance from a BP gas station was used in the investigation, according to the charging papers. 

Canvassing the area, police officers saw Martins, who fit the description of the subject, police said. As they were investigating, he “became uncooperative and refused to comply with the officer’s commands,” police said.

Martins grabbed an officer’s shirt, tore off his badge and struck the officer in the face, continuing to resist arrest before being subdued, police said. A male witness, 49, assisted police until Martins was handcuffed.

The male officer, suffering a head injury, was taken to a hospital to be treated, police said.

Martins is charged with second-degree robbery, second-degree assault, third-degree assault, two counts of third-degree criminal mischief, two counts of fourth-degree criminal mischief, endangering the welfare of a child, resisting arrest and unlawful possession of marijuana, police said.

He is represented by the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County, according to online court records. No one from that office could be reached Wednesday.

Martins has previously been arrested for drunken driving twice, as well as a separate assault on a police officer and criminal mischief to a vehicle, Ryder said.

“We’re working with the district attorney’s office to make sure that this time he stays in jail,” Ryder said.

With Ted Phillips

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