Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Officer Charged in Road-Rage Assault on Queens Boulevard by Anne Barnard -

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The 12-lane thoroughfare is often called the Boulevard of Death, but for one short-fused police officer, the authorities say, it became a road of rage.

On the afternoon of Nov. 17, a civilian, Geoffrey Hollinden, 41, was crossing Queens Boulevard near 109th Street in Forest Hills when he was nearly hit by a car, the authorities say. Enraged, Mr. Hollinden pounded on the car, a 2006 Infiniti, as it passed.

Suddenly the car pulled over, and out sprang a large and irate man — identified by the authorities as Jamel Dennis, 32, an off-duty Brooklyn narcotics officer. Officer Dennis, who is 6-foot-6, grabbed Mr. Hollinden, the authorities say, dragged him to the boulevard’s service road, lifted him to shoulder height and slammed him to the ground, knocking him unconscious.

Mr. Hollinden was hospitalized for three days.

“As a motorist — and more so, as a police officer — the defendant should have known better than to allegedly take matters into his own hands and elevate a minor traffic dispute into a felonious assault,” the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Officer Dennis was charged on Monday night with second-degree assault and released on his own recognizance. He is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 15 and faces up to seven years in prison. Reached by telephone on Tuesday, he declined to comment. A man who identified himself as Officer Dennis’s father said, “They railroaded my son.”

It is not the first time that a New York police officer has been accused of road-rage assault. In August, two transit officers, Michelle Anglin, 37, and Koleen Robinson, 24, were charged with pummeling a man in the head and face with a baton and a gun after he pulled up alongside them in the Bronx with his side door open, nearly scraping their sport utility vehicle.

The Queens Boulevard episode provided yet more grist for the road’s dangerous reputation. The 8- to 12-lane street is one of the main arteries linking Queens to Manhattan; it also divides neighborhoods with a fast-moving river of traffic that some pedestrians find hard to cross.

Between 1993 and 2000, 72 pedestrians were killed along the road. Since 2004, safety improvements have led to a decrease in the number of collisions, but drivers and pedestrians still find the boulevard nerve-wracking, and accidents there still claim lives — two this year.

According to the district attorney, Officer Dennis fled after assaulting Mr. Hollinden. Two days later, Mr. Brown said, Officer Dennis went to the 112th Precinct station and identified himself as an officer in the Brooklyn North Narcotics Division. He said a man had pushed him during a traffic dispute in the area and asked whether anyone had filed a complaint. He also pointed out scuff marks on the back of his car to an officer from the Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, which investigated the case.

District Attorney Brown said that the incident came to light because an eyewitness jotted down the license plate number of the defendant’s car. Mr. Hollinden sustained a cut in his head that required five staples, cranial bleeding and a herniated disc, according to the district attorney.

“The guy escaped the car, but not the driver,” said Kevin Ryan, the district attorney’s spokesman.