An ex-con with a lengthy rap sheet was arrested for sucker-punching a Yonkers cop – and released without bail just two days later, sparking outrage among both city officials and the police commissioner.
John McCray, a 39-year-old convicted felon out on parole for attempted robbery, was cut loose by a Westchester County judge following the Sept. 6 sneak attack, which was captured on shocking body camera footage released by the City of Yonkers Police Department.
“It is the very definition of insanity,” Mayor Mike Spano said in a statement.
“The justice system is consistently bailing out criminal offenders,” Spano railed. “This officer is now out on leave and not able to do his job, while this offender is able to continue to make a living.”
The officer was left with a broken nose when he got decked after trying to help McCray, who had passed out on a sidewalk, according to cops and the footage.
Cops were called to Yonkers Avenue near Cypress Street last Wednesday night to check out a report that a man was laying on the sidewalk, according to a statement issued by the Yonkers police.
When they arrived, they allegedly found McCray on the ground. Officers made sure he was breathing, and helped him into an ambulance for treatment, police said.
McCray wanted to leave, but police and EMS workers “exercised great patience” in trying to convince him to stay and get help, cops said.
The bodycam footage shows a shaky-looking McCray talking to cops as he stands on the ambulance’s rear bumper.
“Why don’t you turn around and let them check you out in there, alright?” one officer tells him. “You’ll feel a lot better once you sit down.”
Then another officer – whose name has not been released – moves toward McCray and gently tries to convince him to go inside.
That’s when McCray rears back and punches the cop square in the nose, breaking it, the video shows.
Officers quickly grabbed him, pulled him off the rig and wrestled him to the ground, where they cuffed him.
The stricken officer bled profusely during the scrum, but still managed to help get McCray in bracelets before another cop waved him off and said, “You’re bleeding all over, man.”
A foot-long puddle of the officer’s blood soaked into a nearby patch of concrete afterward, according to a crime scene photo released by police.
Authorities charged McCray with second-degree assault on a police officer.
The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office asked the judge to hold McCray on $75,000 cash bail or $150,000 bond – likely in part because of his lengthy criminal history, which includes 13 criminal convictions over the last 20 years.
McCray is also out on parole for a 2017 attempted robbery conviction that put him behind bars for nearly five years, cops said.
But Judge Maurice Williams ordered McCray be released on his own recognizance during the Sept. 8 arraignment in Yonkers Criminal Court.
“The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office requested a significant amount of bail for McCray for this assault,” police said in their statement. “Instead, McCray convinced a Westchester County Court Judge to release him, awaiting his next court date, by issuing a simple apology and mentioning an upcoming job interview.”
The defendant did make his next court appearance on Sept. 12, the DA’s office said. He’s scheduled to appear again on Sept. 26.
But cops and local pols are still angry the courts released him in the first place.
“How can any reasonable person expect that we can protect the public if we can’t even protect our police officers?” Spano, the Yonkers mayor, said in the statement. “We need to step up and recommit to keep those proven to hurt and plague the community in jail where they belong. Period.”
Yonkers Police Commissioner Christopher Sapienza said if the courts continue with their easygoing approach, it will hurt law enforcement’s efforts to fight crime in the future.
“Criminal acts cannot come without repercussions,” Sapienza said in a statement.
“If we continue to tell offenders that crime, especially violent crime, is not taken seriously by the decisions made in our courts, we can be sure that judges’ inaction and gentle approach to punishing repeat felons will severely undermine and limit the effectiveness of any crime-fighting strategy.”
“We live in this world where accountability, where police officers are accountable for every move we make,” he said. “And in this case, the judge should be held accountable as well.”
A spokesperson for the Office of Court Administrations – which oversees the state’s courts – told News12 that the judge’s decision was “based on the facts and circumstances of the case that were discussed on the record at the defendant’s bail application hearing.”
“Judge Williams decided that recognizance with monitoring was the most appropriate form of guaranteeing that the defendant will return to court,” OCA’s statement said.