A New York City police officer has been charged with a hate crime after he allegedly assaulted a motorist “until he lost consciousness” while using anti-Muslim slurs in an off-duty incident, authorities said.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced on Monday that Riggs Kwong, 50, was arraigned on an indictment charging him with assault as a hate crime, menacing as a hate crime and aggravated harassment.
The charges are related to a violent traffic altercation alleged to have taken place on the morning of Jan. 16 in Brooklyn’s Kensington neighborhood.
The incident is alleged to have started after Kwong blocked the vehicle of the victim, a 32-year-old man who was driving a Toyota Rav 4, the DA’s office said in a statement. The victim allegedly followed Kwong’s vehicle, a Honda Accord, to an intersection before driving in front of it and cutting off the officer.
Kwong is alleged to have videotaped himself telling the victim: “I’m trying to make a left here on the service road and this terrorist is terrorizing me, you’re upset because I didn’t let you make a U-turn, Mr. Mohammed … Al Qaeda, Terrorist, ISIS …”
The racial slurs continued as the victim exited his vehicle to take a photo of the officer’s license plate, the DA’s office said. The victim returned to his car, but got out again and slapped the hood of Kwong’s vehicle, prompting the officer to exit his car, according to the prosecutor.
The situation escalated, with Kwong allegedly spitting in the man’s face and the victim spitting back, the DA’s office said. The officer allegedly punched the man while continuing to use anti-Muslim language, according to officials.
At one point, the victim was hit hard enough to fall to the ground and lose consciousness, the DA’s office said.
Kwong allegedly called 911 and made clear that he was an off-duty police officer. He is alleged to have falsely stated, however, that the victim had thrown the first punch, with the officer accused of repeating the claim to NYPD officers who responded to the incident.
The DA’s office said surveillance video appeared to tell a different story, allegedly showing the defendant punching the victim without the 32-year-old ever throwing a punch.
Kwong was arraigned Monday before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Raymond Rodriguez. In addition to the hate crime charges, the officer is also accused of falsely reporting an incident and improper use of colored or flashing lights.
Kwong was reportedly suspended from the department after pleading not guilty to the charges, according to CNN, which cited the DA’s office.
The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News on the officer’s current status within the department. Efforts to reach the DA’s office to verify Kwong’s not guilty plea were not successful.
Kwong was released without bail and is expected to return to court on March 22, the DA’s office said in its statement.