A police union wrote a scathing letter to a major clothing chain after it told a manager to drop a case against a serial thief who allegedly injured an NYPD officer in Times Square, calling the move “counter-productive to the safety of your establishment, to our members, and the public,” the Post has learned.
Det. Joseph DeBarro was on “special detail” when he responded to a call about shoplifting at the Express store at West 45th Street and Seventh Avenue on Dec. 11, the letter signed by Detectives Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo states.
Once at the store, DeBarro allegedly caught Jovan Ortiz – who has more than 30 arrests on his record – with a stolen purple coat, belt, overalls and a dress, police said. But when the officer tried to arrest him, Ortiz fought back, according to the letter dated Dec. 20.
Ortiz “flailed his arms” and caused the cop to fall to his knees, bringing pain and swelling to both knees, a police spokesman said at the time.
The store’s manager was “traumatized” and wanted to press charges, but was told by Express to “drop the case,” the letter says.
“Naturally, this is the sort of reaction that is counter-productive to the safety of your establishment, to our members, and the public,” the letter states. “It’s also why the same perpetrators are arrested and re-arrested dozens of times.”
Ortiz was charged with robbery, petit larceny, resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration and criminal possession of stolen property, police said. He was arraigned on one count of third-degree robbery in Manhattan Criminal Court, documents show.
Ortiz is on parole until 2022 and has been arrested for crimes that include grand larceny, robbery, assault, purse snatching and resisting arrest, according to the letter.
“Our detectives put in long days and weeks into investigating these grand larceny cases, and they put their lives on the line when making arrests,” the letter states.
“If let off with no consequences, this same perpetrator will, no doubt, be emboldened once more to steal from your company, as well as other chain stores, small businesses, individuals young and old, and his actions may ultimately result in the serious injury or death of someone he encounters.”
Prosecutors at his arraignment asked that Ortiz be freed on supervised release, but the judge said Ortiz has a parole violation on his record and would be sent to Rikers Island. He remains there and has a court date next month, city Department of Correction records show.
Messages to the retail chain weren’t immediately returned.