It Looks Like Police Started the Times Square Migrant Brawl

Mayor Adams and NYPD chief of detectives Joseph Kenny joined DA Alvin Bragg as they announced the indictments of seven individuals who were involved in the January 27 assault on two NYPD officers.
Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

In late January, multiple outlets reported two NYPD officers had been physically assaulted by a group of asylum seekers outside a downtown migrant shelter. The incident reverberated throughout the city and beyond and became a flashpoint in the ongoing debate about U.S. immigration policy and the steady influx of migrants into New York. It also puts additional pressure on Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, who has already faced backlash after some arrested suspects were released without bail.

On Thursday, Bragg announced that a grand jury had indicted seven men in the attack, calling the assault “despicable.” But new footage released later that day revealed some major disparities between official accounts of the incident and what was recorded.

Joseph Kenny, the NYPD chief of detectives, had told reporters that a group of men were blocking the sidewalk on 42nd Street, prompting the officers to walk over to get them to move. Kenny said that one of the men, Yohenry Brito, refused to move, sparking the altercation.

“Everybody disperses except for Mr. Brito. He turned around and got confrontational with the police officers. He refused the lawful order. They attempted to place him under arrest, and the melee begins with the officers trying to take Mr. Brito into custody, and the next thing you know they’re being attacked by 13 other people,” he said.

But in the body-worn-camera footage, as reported by The City, officers can be seen approaching a group of men who are standing off to the side, not blocking the flow of pedestrian traffic. The officers can be heard shouting, “Vamos” and “Go to West Four One,” meaning they should move to West 41st Street. One officer approaches Brito, who is wearing a bright-yellow jacket, telling him to move. He can be heard saying “Don’t touch me” in Spanish.

As Brito appears to walk away, he mocks one of the officers, saying he looks like “Ugly Betty,” a reference to the American TV comedy that was based on a Colombian telenovela. Hell Gate notes that one of the officers wore thick-rimmed glasses like the main character of the show.

An officer then pushes Brito up against a nearby building, starting a struggle, and both of them fall to the ground. When the second officer moves to assist, a group of bystanders gets involved and starts to strike the officers and aid Brito.

In the days following the initial report, Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams both called for the perpetrators to be deported for their role in the attack. And Republican leaders held a press conference in Times Square following the incident, suggesting that the city’s sanctuary-city status and policy are to blame. So far, the mayor and governor haven’t commented on the questions raised by the new footage.

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