A grieving son alleges a Nassau County police officer threw him to the ground and prevented him from seeing his mother in her last moments inside Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow early Saturday morning.
Gary Leifer, 60, of Merrick, said the officer beat and restrained him in a dispute over where Leifer had parked his car after he followed the ambulance carrying his mother to the hospital.
“He picks me up and he body slams me,” said Leifer, describing his interaction with the First Precinct officer and another officer who he said also restrained him. “He had one knee on my side and one knee on the side of my head for 20 minutes. And I’m just yelling, ‘Please, let me see my mother!’ ”
Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, the department’s chief spokesman, on Tuesday said the Internal Affairs Unit is investigating Leifer’s claims.
“The individual filed a complaint with the police department,” LeBrun said. “Since it is an open investigation, we cannot provide further information.”
Brendan Brosh, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said it had also received a complaint regarding Leifer’s allegations.
Leifer said his mother, Arline Leifer, 84, of North Bellmore — who had congestive heart failure and emphysema — died at the hospital some time after 6 a.m.
Leifer, who is retired and previously owned a lighting business, said he got a phone call from his sister, a registered nurse, about 5:45 a.m. Saturday saying he needed to get to his mother’s home because an ambulance was on the way to bring her to the hospital.
Leifer said when he arrived, two Nassau police officers — the ones that would ultimately restrain him — and emergency medical technicians already were there. The EMTs were doing chest compressions on his mother, he said.
The unidentified officers wouldn’t let him ride in the ambulance, he said, but they agreed to let him follow the police cars, which escorted the ambulance to the hospital.
Leifer, who burst into tears several times during an interview, said he parked his car next to the two squad cars and sprinted toward the ambulance, but one of the officers told him he needed to move his car first.
“I ran to the loading dock and as soon I get right there, the cop says, ‘Go move your car.’ My mother is 10 feet away getting compressions. I said, ‘Please let me see my mother.’ He said ‘Get the [expletive] away.’ . . . He picked me up and he threw me to the floor.”
Leifer’s wife, Ann, said she followed her husband in another car with her sister-in-law and her mother-in-law’s home health aide.
Leifer said he shouted to his wife to take video or photos, but Ann Leifer said the officer threatened to arrest her if she took photos or approached. He said the officer repeatedly swore at him, and dug his knees into his head, back and side.
At one point, the Leifers said, the emergency room’s attending physician told the officer to let Leifer go, but the officer refused.
The officer eventually let Leifer go, he said. At a doctor’s urging, he had X-rays done, but suffered no broken bones, he said.
Leifer — the right side of his upper back covered in dark purple bruising on Tuesday — said he’s not seeking to file a lawsuit to collect damages. Leifer, whose colon cancer is in remission, said he wants the officer, whose name he does not know, held accountable.
Gary Leifer recalled his mother as a talented painter. Ann Leifer said the family wants justice.
“You can’t get away with this,” said Ann Leifer, 57. “Just simple people that were begging for a few minutes before the person passes, to be with them, to comfort them, and you don’t give them that.”