Lesly Lafontant, 53, a 21-year veteran NYPD officer, was attempting to handcuff a panhandler who was urinating on the floor of a Bronx nail salon. He was simply doing his job last Friday night when Kwesi Ashun allegedly attacked him from behind with a metal chair and severely beat him multiple times. Astoundingly, despite suffering broken orbital bones, a broken cheekbone, and an eye injury, which eventually forced doctors to place him in a medically induced coma, Lafontant managed to unholster his gun and kill Ashun.
In a sane city, it would be unambiguous as to who is the hero and who is the villain, yet to some city Democrats, the roles are reversed. This is the outlook on criminal justice from so many politicians these days – viewing criminals as victims and cops as villains.
The injuries were so bad that last week it wasn’t clear that Lafontant would survive. Yet on Tuesday, his condition improved and he was released from the hospital in an emotional gathering of his fellow cops cheering him on as he was being wheeled out.
One would expect that 100 percent of the media coverage and statements of local politicians would be directed at investigating the growing attacks on NYPD in the line of duty. Instead, there are endless insinuations about too many police shootings and people, including a local politician, implying that Ashun is the real victim here.
The New York Times used innuendo to lament how this incident was “the 11th deadly shooting by a New York officer so far this year,” as if this was somehow a questionable shooting that could have been avoided. The Gray Lady proceeded to interview residents of the neighborhood who “expressed skepticism about the police’s version of what led to the fatal encounter.” Local Assemblywoman Latrice Walker said, “We have a lot of questions.” The paper quoted random local radicals who believe it’s the cop’s fault he was attacked. “It happens a lot,” Mr. Scott, 58, said. “I’m tired of it. A lot of people [are] tired of it.” Of the police he added, “They preach peace but they don’t give it.”
Assemblywoman Walker claims to have talked with Ashun, who was selling T-shirts on the street right before he was killed: “Never in a million years did I think that the man who was shot was the young man I was just talking to,” she said. “He didn’t have anything to do with why the police were there in the first place.”
Well, he had a lot to do with it when he came in and beat the cop with a metal chair. The officer’s partner even tried unsuccessfully to first taser him rather than going for the gun.
Others are lamenting that more wasn’t done in the public mental health field for Ashun, who was bipolar. But this is not about the need for more money on mental health services. This is a need for the criminally insane to either be in a mental asylum or in prison. Here’s the real story: Recently unsealed documents show that Ashun, in 2004, severely slashed a police officer in the neck and was still holding the knife when he was arrested. He had to be pepper-sprayed in order to be subdued. He also allegedly attacked cops in 2008. So this was nothing new. Like most attacks on cops or civilians, the assailant is usually a repeat offender who was allowed to remain on the streets.
Put yourself in the shoes of the NYPD and imagine being a cop headed into a hornet’s nest of violence, drugs, and mental illness with such a severe standard against self-defense. Imagine being a cop and knowing that even if you successfully do your job and apprehend the violent criminals without killing them or being killed, they will be released by numerous jailbreak programs. On top of that, city officials decided to close the Rikers Island jail facility in a few years without any idea of what to do with the thousands of violent criminals who will likely be back on the streets. Is it any wonder there is now an epidemic of suicide among some of New York’s cops?
Just yesterday, a jury awarded $11 million to Raoul Lopez, a heroin dealer with 19 arrests and 13 convictions in his record, in a lawsuit against the cops. Why was he so lucky to win the legal lottery? In 2006, he was shot in the neck by police after he refused to stop when pulled over by Officer Zinos Konstantinides and proceeded to drag the officer into oncoming traffic. Fearing for his life, the officer’s partner shot at Lopez, striking him in the neck.
It’s not just New York. For a sense of the atmosphere that cops are confronted with in major urban neighborhoods, take a look at this video posted on Twitter by the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police:
This was posted to social media just days before a recent murder in the same O'Donnell Heights neighborhood. This is what our Cops are facing under the current administration. They can't even find a way to resolve the squeegee issue let alone this! #CityinCrisis pic.twitter.com/bK2yxV9X45
— Baltimore City FOP (@FOP3) October 29, 2019
Many of these individuals are often hooked on the most dangerous drugs imaginable, which makes the balancing act of cops even harder to finesse. They have never been confronted with as much danger and with as little support from some of these neighborhoods, the politicians, the media, and the legal system. Now is the time for self-described conservatives to combat the jailbreak agenda rather than joining with it. The only criminal justice reform we need now is reform of the reformers.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.