Looking subdued but acknowledging the cheers and applause of other cops, an NYPD officer left a Brooklyn hospital Monday, three days after he suffered serious injuries when a man hit him in the head with a chair inside a Brownsville nail salon.
Officer Lesly LaFontant, 53, had been placed in a medically-induced coma after he was assaulted Friday afternoon by a street vendor while he and another officer tried to arrest a man for publicly urinating in the salon, police said. Despite being hit in the head with the metal chair, LaFontant shot and killed his attacker, police said.
LaFontant, a 21-year-veteran of the NYPD who lives in Manhattan with his wife and family, faces a lengthy recovery period, officials said.
The shooting was the fifth time this month police fired at suspects. In two of those cases, including where Officer Brian Mulkeen, 33, died by friendly fire, suspects were killed, according to police. It was also the latest in an increasing number of encounters where NYPD cops have been injured, according to department statistics.
During use-of-force encounters through June 30, the number of police officers suffering injuries, ranging from minor to serious, has increased by 3.5 percent, to 2,115, compared to 2,043 in the same period last year, NYPD statistics show.
The number of NYPD officers injured over a full year has steadily increased, from 4,004 in 2017, to 4,073 in 2018, police data showed, with 2019 on pace to reach more than 4,200 such incidents.
Police said LaFontant was struck in the head with the chair wielded by the street vendor, identified by an NYPD source as Kwesi Ashun, 33. LaFontant and another officer were attempting to arrest a man later identified as Dewayne Hawkes, 26, of Brownsville, for urinating on the floor of the Goldmine Nail Salon on Mother Gaston Boulevard after employees refused to let him use the bathroom, police said.
Ashun entered the salon at about 5:40 p.m. and threw the chair at LaFontant, police said. The officer suffered broken bones in his face and other injuries, police said. Cops had initially tried to subdue Ashun with a Taser but investigators said that proved ineffective.
LaFontant then shot and killed Ashun, according to Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison. The injured officer was taken to The Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center and placed in a medically-induced coma.
Hawkes was arrested and charged with resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct, police said. A judge order Hawkes freed from jail over the weekend on supervised release, the Brooklyn district attorney's office said Sunday.
According to reports, Ashun’s family had reported his emotional problems to the city but were told he wasn’t dangerous.
“This civilian assaulted a police officer violently and that is not acceptable," Mayor Bill de Blasio said over the weekend. "I just need to put that front and center. That is not acceptable. We do not allow assaults on our police officers."