The Chief
November 28, 2003

Shot Cop Testifies In $2.5M Civil Suit

Wants ‘Attacker’ to Pay

By Mark Daly

An injured Detective took the stand in a Queens courtroom Nov. 18 to describe the world of hurt he entered after he was shot in the hip during a struggle with an armed suspect in 1999.

The officer, David Gonzalez, testified as part of his $2.5 million civil lawsuit against William Hodges, his accused assailant, who walked free last year when a state judge ruled he hadn’t been given a speedy trial.

‘Constant Pain’

Mr. Gonzalez, 29, said he is in “constant pain” from the two dozen bullet fragments that remain in his right leg and hip.

“It’s much worse when it’s damp out, or when it’s cold,” the officer said in a subsequent interview. “The sorts activities I used to do – skiing, running, hiking – I don’t enjoy them as much, because they’re painful now.”

A rookie at the time of the shooting, Mr. Gonzalez later received a promotion to Detective and a transfer to the Intelligence Division. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is continuing to provide him legal support in his civil case.

“We need to send a message: If you shoot a New York City police officer, we will go after you until we get justice,” said PBA President Patrick J. Lynch.

Mr. Hodges failed to show up for last week’s hearing, and no attorney attended on his behalf. His former criminal attorney has said his former client is now working in construction.

The Supreme Court Justice who heard yesterday’s testimony, Patricia Satterfield, ruled last month that Mr. Hodges could be held liable in the shooting of Mr. Gonzalez, in part because the accused assailant hadn’t participated in earlier stages of the case.

Last year a different Queens judge, Laura Blackburne, ordered Mr. Hodges released after she concluded that the Queens District Attorney’s Office had taken too long to prosecute.

A challenge of that ruling is still pending in a state appeals court, a spokeswoman for Queens DA Richard A. Brown said last week.

Too Many Delays

State law gives prosecutors 182 days to begin a criminal trial. When she threw out the charges against Mr. Hodges, Justice Blackburne said the Queens DA’s Office had requested 208 days’ worth of adjournments over a three-year period. Mr. Brown contends that procedural moves on both sides led to the repeated postponement of the criminal trial. He charges that the judge counted the dates wrong when she ruled that prosecutors had missed their deadline.

Mr. Brown believes Ms. Blackburne’s ruling showed “serious errors in judgment,” the spokeswoman said.

Supporters of Mr. Gonzalez have accused Ms. Blackburne of bowing to outside influence in her ruling. The Daily News reported last year that the judge and Mr. Hodges’s mother, Sandra, both belong to the Jamaica branch of the NAACP. The judge and Sandra Hodges have denied knowing each other.

Last week’s two-hour hearing was Mr. Gonzalez’s first chance to tell his story in court since Mr. Hodges was arraigned on attempted murder charges four years ago.

Grabbed Gun in Scuffle

Mr. Gonzalez said he was injured while on patrol on Nov. 12, 1999 when he stopped Mr. Hodges in the vestibule of a Queens apartment building while responding to a report of an armed intruder fitting the man’s description.

Mr. Hodges – described by prosecutors as a small-time crack dealer – allegedly grabbed the uniformed officer’s gun from its holster and pulled its trigger as the two men wrestled on the floor.

In his lawsuit, the officer is seeking $500,000 for his pain and suffering to date, plus $500,000 a year for the nest 50 years for future suffering, said his attorney, Greg Longworth.

During the hearing, Dr. Nader Paksima, an orthopedic surgeon from New York University Hospital, testified that Mr. Gonzalez will face painful complications if the bullet fragments in his hip and femur drift into his joints. The officer is also at risk of lead poisoning if the tiny pieces deteriorate and enter his bloodstream.

Removing the fragments is hazardous in itself, the doctor said, because it would cause additional damage to the surrounding tissue.