1998Commentary

The Frightful Whisperings From a Coney Island Hospital Bed

By: 
Mike McAlary
August 13, 1997

index | next

Abner Louima trembled in his hospital bed yesterday as his wife, Micheline, touched his cheek and wept. A plastic tube ran from his torn bladder into a plastic bag. His urine was red.

This is a tale straight from the police dungeon, an allegation of brutality at the hands of cops from Brooklyn's 70th Precinct that seems so impossible, so crudely medieval.

"They said, 'Take this, nigger,' " Louima said, "and stuck the stick in my rear end."

"Was it a nightstick?" I asked, leaning over the bed so I could hear his gasping voice.

Click image for larger view.

"It was the plunger from the police man's bathroom," he said. "It was brown. When they were done they stuck it in my mouth and broke my teeth."

It all started early Saturday morning after a party in a club near the corner of Glenwood Road and Flatbush Ave. As the club emptied out, a fight broke out between two women. "I didn't know the women," said Louima, a 30-year-old Haitian immigrant. "I was there with my brother and my cousin."

The cops showed up, as they are supposed to, and scattered the crowd.

"The white cops started with some racial stuff," Louima whispered. "They said, 'Why do you people come to this country if you can't speak English?' They called us niggers.

"A cop said to shut up. I didn't think he was talking to me. He pushed me to the ground and handcuffed my hands. Two cops put me in their patrol car and drove me to the corner of Glenwood and Nostrand. There was another car there. They kicked and beat me with their radios. They were yelling, 'You people can't even talk English, I am going to teach you to respect a cop.' None of the cops had their nametags on. They put me back in the car and drove me to the corner of Glenwood and Bedford. They met two other cops and beat me again. This time in the legs, too."

Then, he said, he was driven to the 70th Precinct stationhouse, led to the duty sergeant's desk and strip-searched.

"My pants were down at my ankles, in full view of the other cops. They walked me over to the bathroom and closed the door. There were two cops. One said, 'You niggers have to learn to respect police officers.' The other one said, 'If you yell or make any noise, I will kill you.' Then one held me and the other one stuck the plunger up my behind. He pulled it out and shoved it in my mouth, broke my teeth and said, 'That's your s--t, nigger.' Later, when they called the ambulance, the cop told me, 'If you ever tell anyone . . . I will kill you and your family.' "

Louima is lying in critical condition in Coney Island Hospital's trauma unit with a pierced lower intestine and a torn bladder. His doctor told me it would take three or four months for him to recover. His left hand was shackled to the bed. A cop sat guard across the room.

If his story is true, a lot of cops should go down. Some cops, the good ones, are already outraged and tipped me off to this horrific incident late Monday night and yesterday morning.

The Brooklyn district attorney's corruption unit, which interviewed Louima at the hospital last night, and the Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau are investigating. Cops usually silent about the misdeeds of other cops were volunteering to talk, insiders said.

"This is not a corruption case," said Brian Figeroux, a former assistant district attorney and one of Louima's lawyers. "This is a torture case. Cops are going to jail."

Abner Louima has never been arrested. He is a licensed guard and works for GFC Security in Brooklyn. "I liked cops," he said, "until this." Three hours after I left his bedside, he identified two 70th Precinct cops from photographs. They were placed on modified duty. Investigators have confiscated all the toilet plungers from the stationhouse.

After hearing a story that I wanted to be untrue, I was shaking.

This is not about the police force. This is about a group of cops who are sadistic racists. Be afraid, be very afraid if this story is true, and I am afraid it is.

Abner's father, Jean Louima, who wore a N.Y. Mets cap, touched his son's swollen cheek and stepped back and moaned. They are from Haiti. The father, three sons and a daughter live on E. 48th St. in East Flatbush. Abner and his wife live on 117th St. in Jamaica. They are a close, hardworking family.

"He has never been in trouble in his life," said his wife, Micheline, the mother of their son, Abner Jr., as she began to cry. She was wearing a bright-colored red dress and a white cap. "The cops are going to try and say this was some sort of homosexual thing. How much will they take from him?"

The doctor on the case, who gave his name only as Levin, told us that Louima suffered a "blunt-force trauma to the anus" and that "his injuries were consistent" with his frightening tale of torture.

It will be easy for investigators to determine which cops responded to the fight outside the club and who arrested and transported Louima. The first cops to show up at the hospital Saturday told the nurses they found Louima half-naked and bleeding and said he was a homosexual, family members said they were told.

"His family saw him get in the police car in perfect health," said Carl Thomas, Louima's other lawyer and a Brooklyn prosecutor until three years ago. "The next thing we know, he is in the hospital with a lacerated bladder and pierced intestine. This is worse than the stun gun case in Queens. What were these cops thinking? How can you do this to another human being? And how many people did they do this to before?"

This is a story to stop the city.

Commentary 1998