2009-03-13 / Top Stories

101 Precinct Cop Busted For Nassau Assault

By Howard Schwach

Police Officer Juan Nunez, seen here at a community meeting earlier this year, has been charged with assault in Nassau County. Police Officer Juan Nunez, seen here at a community meeting earlier this year, has been charged with assault in Nassau County. An off-duty police officer who serves as the community affairs officer for the 101 Precinct in Far Rockaway was arrested by Nassau County police after he was charged with being part of a gang of Hispanic men who beat up a black man while yelling racial epithets outside a Long Island deli on Sunday. County police identified the officer as Juan Nunez, who has been assigned to the precinct for seven years.

Sources in Nassau County say the fight may have been started by the black man, identified as Daryl Jackson, 52, of Roosevelt on Long Island. Jackson was allegedly hanging out in front of the Freeport bodega owned by the other three men, who are reportedly Nunez's cousins. One of the defendants, Kevin Vargas, reportedly ordered Jackson, who eyewitnesses say was harassing customers, to move away from the store, The Midway Deli. Jackson refused, and allegedly punched Vargas in the face. Jose Miguel Vargas, another of the defendants, said that he and the others then intervened. Police say, however, that the men pummeled him with their fists and with a baseball bat. Police report that Nunez was not the person who wielded the baseball bat.

Although the men yelled racial slurs at Jackson, telling him to "go back to Africa," and calling him the N-word, police say that the case will probably not be tried as a hate crime.

In order to try Nunez under the hate crime statute, the genesis of the attack would have to be racial in nature, said one legal expert. Nassau County police say that the assault started not because Jackson is black, but because the men perceived that he was causing a problem at their place of business.

Racial activist Al Sharpton announced on Wednesday that he would hold a demonstration in Freeport demanding that officials declare the attack a bias case. A spokesperson for the Nassau County District Attorney's office, however, said that no decision has yet been made on how to proceed in the case. Several Rockaway activ ists have lined up to support Nunez. "I have known him for a long time, and I know that he's not a racist," said the Reverend Evan Gray. "That assault is not the Juan that I know, and I think that we have to wait for all the facts to come out before we condemn him." Nunez, 32, who lives in Freeport, was released after posting a $40,000 bond after his arraignment in the Mineola courthouse.

New York City police sources say that Nunez was immediately suspended without pay and ordered to surrender his service weapon.

If convicted, Nunez could face up to seven years in prison.

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