Michael R. Sisak/AP

Army vet and NYPD officer says he was trying to stay alive during fight

December 28, 2018 - 10:41 am

By Julia LeDoux

Army veteran and New York City Police Officer Syed Ali says he was just trying to stay alive during a fight with a group of homeless men inside a subway station Sunday night.

According to the AP, a video of the Dec. 23 confrontation at the East Broadway Station in Manhattan has gone viral, garnering over 5 million views on social media. In the video, Ali is seen using his baton and kicking the men during the fight.

“I’m trying to survive,” Ali, an Army Reserve combat veteran, said. “That’s the number one thing.”

Ali, who deployed to Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan, said during a press conference Thursday that he’s been flooded with calls from his old Army buddies who had seen the footage online.

“I can’t tell you what would be the next thing, other than that I want to go home,” he continued. “I bet every police officer in this city thinks exactly the same thing: we’re going home.”

The Bangladesh native joined the NYPD six years ago after his service with the Army. He said he approached the men and asked them to leave the station after a female subway rider complained to him that they were harassing and scaring her, reported the AP.

Instead of leaving like he expected them to, the men approached Ali and confronted him. He said he felt a trickle of sweat run down the back of his neck before pausing to assess the situation and jumping into “straight up police action.”

During the fight, one of the homeless men, who were thought to be drunk, fell off the train platform and had to be pulled off the tracks. All three received treatment at a hospital.  

Ali never pulled his gun even though he was outnumbered and has earned praise from Mayor Bill de Blasio and a city councilman. Vincent Coogan, the executive officer of the NYPD’s transit division, also presented him with a plaque.

“He kept the situation from maybe escalating and getting worse,” he said. “It was a perfect outcome. Nobody got hurt.”

Three men – Juan Nunez, Eliseo Alvarez, and Leonardo Alvarado -- were arrested Wednesday and Thursday. Initially, they were only cited with sleeping on the station floor after the District Attorney’s office in Manhattan dropped the case due to a policy of curbing prosecution of low-level violations.

That angered the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which called for the men to be “held accountable for their actions” in a statement released Christmas Day.

A spokesman for the DA’s office said prosecutors were not aware that the men were also believed to have been fighting with Ali and would not have dropped the charges if they had been. The men are awaiting arraignment on charges, including riot. Alvarez, 36, also faces charges of attempted assault, attempted possession of a weapon and menacing, according to the AP.

“Justice has been served,” Ali said.

Want to get more connected to the great stories and resources Connecting Vets has to offer? Click here and sign up for our weekly newsletter.