On Monday October 28th, 53-year-old Officer Lesly Lafontant was released from New York City’s Brookdale hospital to a crowd of cheering onlookers, who consisted of a sea of his brothers and sisters in blue. 

Officer Lafontant defied the odds after being placed in a medically induced coma merely 48 hours prior to his release. Although greeting the masses, with a severely swollen face, he was able to muster a smile for his colleagues as the NYPD pipe and drums band played. Lafantant was wheeled out of the hospital by his wife and flanked by his four children.

 

As reported by the NY Daily News, Officer Lafontant’s commanding officer, Capt. Craig Edelman of the 73rd Precinct, explained standing among the crowd of well-wishers:

“This is what we do, we make a promise to each other to go home to our families and make sure our officers go home to their families. So, this, believe it or not, makes us stronger, day to day, showing that the determination Leslie had to make it home to his loved ones.”

Officer Lafontant still has a long road to recovery, as he still has substantial damage to his face and head, however it is promising that he was able to leave the hospital so soon after his injury that took place on Friday.

Officer Lafontant, a 21-year veteran of the New York City Police Department, was involved in an incident that took place on Friday October 25th.   As reported by NBC New York, NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison stated during a press conference:

“A man entered the Gold Mine nail salon near the corner of Mother Gaston Boulevard and Sutter Avenue in Brownsville around 5:45 p.m. Friday, asking to use the bathroom. When he was denied access, he began urinating on the floor of the salon.” 

Chief Harrison went on to explain that:

“[The] salon owners flagged down two cops nearby, and asked them to remove the man. The cops discovered there were outstanding warrants out for the man’s arrest, and began to place him under arrest [at which time] he resisted.”

One of the officers that had responded to the salon was Officer Lafontant.  While there was an altercation with the suspect who was resisting arrest, a second man entered the salon, later identified as 33-year-old Kwesi Ashun.

After entering the salon, Ashun took a metal chair and struck Officer Lafontant in the head. After Officer Lafontant was hit in the head, he was able to unholster his weapon, and fire six rounds at his assailant, striking Ashun in the face.

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According to news sources, Kwesi Ashun was pronounced dead at the scene.  Officer Lafontant was taken to Brookdale Hospital for treatment. Due to the severity of the injuries to the officer’s head from the attack with the metal chair, doctors decided to place him in a medically induced coma. He was listed in critical, but stable condition.  

NBC New York reported regarding the initial call for service, “the 26-year-old man,” later identified as  Dewayne Hawkes,  who had urinated on the salon floor and initially escaped during the altercation,  “was [later] arrested and charged with resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.”

This is not the first time that Kwesi Ashun had a run in with NYPD.  As reported by the NY Daily News, he “was accused in Oct. 2004 of using a knife to slice Officer James Sinnott’s face from ear to neck. Another officer, Brian Risano, was injured as he and other officers tried to subdue Ashun, then 18.” 

At the time the officers needed to use pepper spray and other control and arrest techniques to subdue Ashun.  It was reported that he was then admitted to Kings County Hospital as an “emotionally disturbed person,” and later reported that he suffered from bi-polar disorder.

While many hail officer Lafontant as a hero, for being able to defend himself and those around him from a violent and emotionally disturbed individual, after being attacked, not all agree.

NBC New York reported:

“A state legislator from Brooklyn was in the area at the time of the shooting and described a scene of ‘mayhem.’”   Assemblywoman Latrice Walker said. “Children were running Families were afraid. My daughter was screaming.”

The Assemblywoman also went on to add:

“Our community is definitely traumatized today because this was a senseless death.”

New reports indicate that there have been six police-involved shootings across New York City (that has a population of over 8 million residents) since the end of September, five of which have now been fatal.

Maybe the assemblywoman missed the whole part about the metal chair to the head and face of Officer Lafontant, by a violent and disturbed individual that had nothing to do with the original call to service, who also had a history of violence with the NYPD in years past?!

The New York Times made sure the reporting focused on the poor, innocent community… not the officer who was almost killed.

In their reporting, they talked to residents of the neighborhood and a state assemblywoman who represents the area – all of whom “expressed skepticism about the police’s version of what led to the fatal encounter.”

“We have a lot of questions,” the assemblywoman, Latrice Walker, said. 

They talked to neighbor Robert Scott, who lives in the neighborhood.

He told the New York Times it reminds him of “another such episode that ended with a local man dead”.

“It happens a lot,” Mr. Scott, 58, said. “I’m tired of it. A lot of people of tired of it.” Of the police he added, “They preach peace but they don’t give it.”

Then they talked to 45-year-old Nigel Morris, who also lives in the area and was apparently on his way to get food when he saw the activity at the nail salon.  After describing the situation as “way out of the ordinary”, they gave him an opportunity to critique the police.

“There’s a better way that the situation could’ve been handled,” he said. 

Walker, that assemblywoman, is a Democrat, for anyone keeping score.

She claims she and her 7-year-old daughter had just left the library and were on their way to get ice cream when they passed Mr. Ashun in his regular spot next to the nail salon selling T-shirts. 

She describes him as being a friendly man from the neighborhood, of course.  Just a sweet an innocent entrepreneur.

“We were chatting about the shirts, and he was asking if I would buy one,” Ms. Walker said. “He’s an entrepreneur and I want to be supportive. I said, ‘Let me go and get my daughter her ice cream.’ And as we were walking away, I said, ‘I’ll be right back.’”

She says she and her daughter had gone about half a block when she heard gunfire. 

“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.” 

Except he did.  He slammed a chair into the head of a cop and left him in a coma.

Walker told the New York Times that “earlier in the afternoon she had been talking with her daughter about how her day had been. She asked her again after the shooting, which had left the girl upset and crying”. 

“She said, ‘Today was a good day, until I heard the pop, pop, pop,” Walker said.

Quick recap, here.  Man attacks cop with chair.  Man gets killed.  Media and city “leader” blame the police.

And then everyone asks why we have such a suicide epidemic among law enforcement.

After Friday’s shooting,  Ashun’s family members and other supporters rushed to the scene of his shooting, some sobbing and screaming at the NYPD.

Also there was a young man wearing an ID for ThriveNYC, which is the city’s embattled mental health initiative.  He was holding a briefcase and standing with the family members.

“He struggled with mental illness and we tried desperately to get help for him to no avail,” his sister, Ama Bartley, 35, told The Post.  

She said Ashun had an Oct. 14 appointment with a mobile crisis team from the city Department of Health, but said health workers determined after a short visit that he was not a threat to himself or others.

“Eleven days later, this is what happens,” she said. “We tried, we really tried to get him help. He was a beautiful soul. He was just battling some heavy things.

Regardless of what others think, or think they know, we are happy to see that Office Lafontant was able to leave the hospital, and that he is on the road to recovery.

“It’s only a miracle and because of his inner strength that he’s leaving this hospital here today,” Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch stated.

We here at LET wish him the very best and a speedy recovery, and thank him for his selfless and dedicated service to the City of New York!

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