May 25, 2012


Acquitted in Bronx Of Running Down Officer, Felon Guilty in Queens


The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association last week praised Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown for obtaining the conviction of a man who stole a car he later used to run over a police officer.

Before the Queens trial, Rafael Then, 28, was acquitted of attempted murder in The Bronx due to “an ineffective prosecution by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office...and a Bronx jury that was totally unsympathetic to the career-ending shattering of a dedicated officer’s leg,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said in a statement.

DNA Was Not Enough

A PBA official said Mr. Then was found not guilty on every charge, including possession of a firearm than had his DNA on it.

Mr. Then was convicted, however, by a Queens jury May 24 of stealing the 2003 Lexus GS 300 at gunpoint from Baron Auto Mall in Woodside, Queens on Oct. 15, 2006. He faces 25 years to life behind bars on the robbery conviction.

Twelve days after the theft, a group of officers from the Auto Larceny Unit, who included Police Officer Fannie Ortiz, spotted the car parked on a Bronx street and waited for someone to return for it, the PBA said.

At 4 a.m., Mr. Then and his girlfriend arrived at the car, and he got into the driver’s seat and started it up. Officers surrounded the car and ordered him to turn it off. He refused. An officer reached in on the passenger side and turned the car off. Mr. Then turned it back on and put it in gear.

“The officer on the passenger side is standing in the open doorjamb with his female partner slightly behind him,” a PBA official said. “The male officer reaches in again just as he sees the defendant reach for his waistband. He yells ‘gun, gun, gun.’ The defendant hits the gas and the car shoots out of the spot in reverse, with the cop hanging in the car. The female cop is hit and crushed between the open door and a metal stanchion. Her leg is broken in three places.”

Shot Him in the Face

“The ALU Sergeant, who was on the driver’s side, sees this and sees the cop hanging out of the car, and hears the shout of gun, gun, gun, and shoots the defendant through the front windshield, striking him in the face. The car finally crashes across the intersection. The defendant is taken out of the car. As he is, a 9-mm. falls from his waist area. As he is being cuffed, a second gun is taken from his waistband.”

Officer Ortiz and Mr. Then were taken to the hospital. “The defendant ‘claims’ nerve damage, although there is nothing to substantiate that,” the PBA official said. “He sits in a wheelchair to this date in court.”

“Officer Ortiz was permanently disabled from this crime and was forced to give up the job at which she was so effective, leaving this dangerous felon to be held accountable only for armed robbery,” Mr. Lynch said. “For the good of the people of this city, we hope the court sentences this creep to the maximum sentence allowed by law.”