NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Brooklyn man accused of throwing bleach in a NYPD officer’s face and a Molotov cocktail at other officers is now facing a federal charge.
CBS2 has obtained exclusive video of his arrest. Reporter Kiran Dhillon spoke with the man’s family, who says he is mentally ill.
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The video shows Lionel Virgile crash his car in East Flatbush on Saturday morning. In just seconds, nearly two dozen officers flood the scene, some with their guns drawn. They then work to get the 44-year-old out of the car and into custody.
Body cam footage from just moments earlier shows what led to the arrest. An NYPD officer approaches Virgile’s car after pulling him over for allegedly running a red light. That’s when police say Virgile suddenly hurled bleach in the officer’s face.
As the officer is heard yelling out in pain, the suspect takes off.
Not far away, when other officers stop the vehicle, police said Virgile then threw a lit Molotov cocktail at them.
He again speeds off, only to crash and be arrested. Officers then found three additional Molotov cocktails in his car.
This is another reminder of how quickly a situation can change, & the dangers your cops face every day while they’re protecting NYers.
Even after arrest, the investigation into this attack remains active.
And your NYPD cops will not relent in their mission to keep you safe. https://t.co/tuymwW6O4D
— Commissioner Shea (@NYPDShea) April 17, 2021
“The person in the video is not him. He’s not violent. He’s very caring and nice,” daughter Janelle Virgile said.
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Janelle Virgile, 18, later apologized to the officers involved. She said her father, originally from Haiti, suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
She said he used to hold down jobs as a cab driver and a nurse’s aide, but has been living in his car for two years, the same amount of time he has refused to take his meds.
While sources said there is reason to believe Lionel Virgile may have targeted police, his daughter said she doesn’t believe that.
“I’m sorry for what he did. That’s not something he would do in his right mind,” Janelle Virgile said. “He could have been killed for that, but luckily he wasn’t.”
Janelle Virgile added her father was recently taken to the hospital to be treated but was released.
“My mom tried to tell them to keep him. They refused because they said he doesn’t want help, but that’s the whole problem. We’re trying to get him help, but he doesn’t want it,” she said.
The union that represents police sergeants says if mental illness is a factor in the crime, what happened is indicative of cracks in the our system.
“Why was this individual allowed to be left untreated and who’s accountable for that?” the SBA’s Ed Mullins said. “There’s a breakdown in the social policies and it becomes the police who have to deal with it.”
The NYPD, the FBI and the United States Attorney for the Eastern district of New York are now investigating.
Lionel Virgile is facing a federal charge for possession of a destructive device, and other charges are possible.
He will be arraigned in federal court on Monday.
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CBS2’s Christina Fan and Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report.