A suspect in a murderous 2010 brawl in Park Slope, Brooklyn, escaped from a police station house early Thursday morning, fleeing on foot and sparking an extensive manhunt to recapture him, the police said.
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New York Police Department
Man Fatally Stabbed During Fight in Brooklyn
The 22-year-old man was hit in the head with a crowbar and stabbed three times during a scuffle with a group of men Sunday morning in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
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Detectives had been questioning the 24-year-old suspect, Brandon Santana, in the 78th Precinct station house, a few blocks from the Barclays Center, in connection with a violent street fight between two groups of men that left one person dead, said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.
After the questioning, Mr. Santana returned to a holding cell around 1 a.m. About an hour later, Mr. Browne said, Mr. Santana was escorted by a police officer from the cell to a bathroom, “at which point the prisoner shoved the officer, knocking him down, and fled.” The officer sustained a minor injury to his elbow.
It was not clear whether Mr. Santana had been handcuffed at the time of his escape, nor how he managed to get out of the station house.
Mr. Browne said that the escape “is under department investigation” and that the suspect “is being actively pursued.”
It is uncommon for prisoners to escape from custody of the Police Department, with 16 doing so last year among the 397,000 people arrested, Mr. Browne said, and all but one recaptured soon after. There were 20 in 2011.
Escapes most commonly occur when prisoners are being transported between locations, though a few suspects have found ways to slip out of the precincts where they were held. The number of escapes were higher a decade ago, Mr. Browne said, but have gone down since being “subjected to greater department scrutiny.”
Edward Mamet, a retired captain who was in charge of detectives operating out of the 78th Precinct, said that protocol for someone in police custody, especially a murder suspect, dictated that the suspect be handcuffed and ideally accompanied by two officers if being moved from a holding cell.
“You have a very high-risk prisoner who was on the lam — that right away raises a flag that this person has an escape potential,” Mr. Mamet said. He added that during his time in the department, he knew of prisoners escaping through small bathroom windows — “they squirm out like a mouse” — or while being treated at the hospital. In one instance, a prisoner escaped detectives via the station house ceiling. “He crawled through the ductwork,” Mr. Mamet recalled. “People are desperate."
Mr. Santana was taken into custody on Wednesday on suspicion of being part of a group of men whose attack of Alexander Santiago, 22, led to his death. The group set upon Mr. Santiago and several others on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 12th Street in Park Slope shortly after midnight on Aug. 1, 2010.
Hit on the head several times, Mr. Santiago later died at a nearby hospital, the police said. A member of Mr. Santiago’s group was stabbed multiple times, according to court documents, but survived.
Mr. Santiago’s wife, Stephanie Mercado, 27, expressed shock at the escape. “I just hope that the cops do their job and do it right this time,” she said. "Our family needs closure. We're still hurting.” Three weeks after Mr. Santiago’s death, Ms. Mercado gave birth to their son, whom the couple had decided to name Alexander.
In October 2010, the police arrested a member of the group, Randy Soto, 25, and prosecutors charged him with murder in the second degree and a range of other felonies including gang assault and possession of a deadly weapon — the tire iron that prosecutors said was used to bludgeon Mr. Santiago to death. Mr. Soto’s next trial date is set for March in Brooklyn criminal court.
The police did not describe what role Mr. Santana might have played in the 2010 attack. Court papers list several unidentified men with Mr. Soto.
The Brooklyn district attorney’s office said Mr. Santana had not yet been processed for arraignment when he escaped. He was last seen wearing a brown hooded jacket, blue jeans and white sneakers.