The embattled commander of the 10th Precinct has got one very staunch defender: The Chelsea woman who was punched in the face by a stranger in August and who then faulted officers for their indifference to the incident when they arrived at the scene.
In an open letter to the two Police Benevolent Association delegates who penned and distributed a missive to union members ripping Capt. Kevin Coleman, Bernadette Dono, a Chelsea lawyer, called the delegates’ description of the incident and its aftermath selective and “slanderous.”
‘False’ and ‘Misleading’
In an open letter to union members with the heading “You are under attack!!!!” in all-capital letters, the two PBA delegates, Officers John Flynn and Merritt Riley, said Captain Coleman did not attend a 9/11 ceremony on Sept. 11 but instead adjudicated the command discipline later that day of an officer accused of not investigating reports of an assault, purportedly the incident involving Ms. Dono.
They wrote that he had “no problem” changing officers’ assignments or tours, including those of PBA delegates who had challenged his decisions. The officer being disciplined on Sept. 11, they wrote, had lost his father, a retired officer, to a 9/11-related illness.
“Captain Kevin J. Coleman is attacking you and your families,” they wrote. “The attacks are not physical, we know that, yet they are just as dangerous. Captain Kevin J. Coleman is attacking you and your families by creating an extremely hostile work environment.”
In her response, Ms. Dono said the delegates’ letter was “filled with false, incomplete and misleading information.”
The delegates’ “inflammatory, unfair letter” failed to contextualize the matter, chiefly by not including “any account” of the incident during which she was punched in the face and sent sprawling to the pavement, “bloodied, bruised and with a chipped tooth.”
Not Exactly CPR
Witnesses, of which there were “several,” called 911. The responding six officers, she said, were discourteous and insolent, she said.
“The officers addressed me and the eyewitnesses in an extremely angry and confrontational manner,” and one asked her, “rudely and aggressively” whether she wanted an ambulance.
Despite being given a detailed description of her assailant and being told by one eyewitness that he was still in the vicinity, the officers did not look for him, she said. “In fact, none of the six officers even bothered to record a description of perpetrator, or even take a report from us regarding the assault,” she wrote.
Ms. Dono said she was told this was because she would not be seeking emergency medical care in their presence.
Captain Coleman later reached out by email to Ms. Dono assuring her he would follow up with officers. She said he was the only one to do so.
Suspect Caught, Charged
Her alleged assailant, 33-year-old Todd Lyons, a West 36th St. resident, was arrested on Aug. 23 and charged with three counts of assaults and associated hate crimes in connection with incidents in the First, Sixth and 10th Precincts, at least four of which took place on Aug. 14 and another on Aug. 9.
Ms. Dono, speaking by phone, said Mr. Lyons had been implicated in similar incidents before those. “Until Coleman got involved, they didn’t put it together” that Mr. Lyons was a viable suspect in multiple assaults.
Two weeks after her incident, police filed a report on her behalf, she said.
PBA officials did not respond to a request for comment on Ms. Dono's letter. Attempts to reach Officers Flynn and Riley through the union were not successful.
In her nearly 1,400-word letter—which Ms. Dono said some family members, fearing reprisals from police, had discouraged her from sending—she wrote that she was “extremely familiar with the basis” for the cops’ discipline. She said was her understanding that one officer lost vacation days and another had his shift changed. She contended those punishments were not proportionate to the officers’ behavior.
She said she later learned that her assailant went on to attack others. “Each of us can draw their own conclusion from this series of events,” she wrote.
While she said it was “heartbreaking” to know that the officer being disciplined on Sept. 11 had lost a family member to the 9/11 attacks, she chastised the union delegates for “shamefully” invoking “the terrible events...to support your false and inflammatory allegations.”
She called the delegates’ coupling of the officer’s discipline to 9/11 commemoration “irrelevant.”
“Having witnessed the fall of the towers firsthand,” she wrote, “I am revolted by the fact that you would use this event to incite the officers of the 10th precinct to do even less for those of us residing therein.”
She suggested the delegates should apologize to residents and to “the majority of the 10th Precinct officers who do their job, courageously and professionally, every day.”
The president of the Captains Endowment Association, Roy Richter, earlier this month defended Mr. Coleman, saying in a statement that “he conducts his command operations in a fair and equitable manner.”
At the 10th Precinct’s community council meeting Sept. 25, attended by a standing-room-only crowd of about 50 residents, Captain Coleman addressed neighborhood concerns, foremost among them longstanding complaints about homeless and drug use that some residents said had been under-addressed by police.
He sought to reassure them. “I hear these concerns and we are dealing with them,” said the Captain, a former Chelsea resident who has been at the 10th since July 2018. “I’m committed to doing the best we can.”
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