FIRST ON FOX: Four men charged in Saturday’s attack on two NYPD officers are believed to have fled to California on a bus, and unwitting taxpayers appear to have paid for their tickets, a law enforcement source told Fox News Digital.
The city and Mayor Eric Adams have been struggling with a massive influx of illegal immigrants under President Biden.
With many new arrivals making their way to blue sanctuary cities, New York in October began offering one-way plane tickets to migrants who wanted to leave.
Surveillance cameras captured a group of migrants brawling with two police officers, kicking them in the head and wrestling on the ground in video that shocked the city and much of the country this week.
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More quietly, the city’s Office of Emergency Management has been supplying travel vouchers to migrants who approach participating nonprofit groups and ask for help leaving the overburdened city, according to law enforcement sources. Those vouchers can be used for various means of transportation, including buses.
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A handful of the suspects in the shocking attack, after being freed without bail, are believed to have swapped immigration numbers with other people at their shelter and used the misappropriated identities to obtain vouchers and tickets under fake names, a law enforcement source told Fox News Digital.
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A woman who answered the phone at the church where the suspects are believed to have obtained travel vouchers said she would take a message for the priest authorized to speak with the media. He did not immediately return the call.
But the source said it was a woman at the church who recognized the suspects’ faces in retrospect and flagged their departure to OEM.
An OEM spokesperson deferred comment to City Hall. The mayor’s office shared a statement but did not respond to specific questions about the bus vouchers.
“The men and women of the NYPD put their lives on the line every single day, working tirelessly to keep us and our streets safe,” a spokesperson said. “Violence — of any kind, and no less against our officers — is unacceptable and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
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At a press conference Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul said she wanted to speak with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg about why most of the suspects were released without bail and said prosecutors should have sought to keep them jailed.
“Certainly an assault on a police officer is bail eligible,” Hochul told reporters. “There are over 100 crimes that also can lead to deportation, and so that is also something I want to have a conversation with the district attorney about – his options here.”
Bragg, who met with the governor earlier but did not take part in the news briefing, declined to comment when asked by Fox News why five of the suspects were released. A spokesman for his office told Fox News Digital the alleged bus escape is under investigation.
On the way out of his Manhattan arraignment Wednesday, suspect Jhoan Boada, 22, flashed news photographers two middle fingers while walking with another man who was later arrested after being spotted showing the assault video to other men outside a migrant shelter nearby.
Yoiber Martinez, 19, appeared on video arguing with passing police officers and smoking from a pipe before staggering down the sidewalk. He was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, disrupting traffic and possession of a controlled substance.
At the time of his arrest, he was already walking free despite more than a dozen pending larceny charges, including six felonies related to credit card theft.
Some, but not all, of the suspects and their associates are part of an “Oliver Twist”-style group of Venezuelan pickpockets who operate a ring around Times Square and other tourist attractions, law enforcement sources told Fox News Digital Friday.
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The NYPD identified the assault suspects as Boada, Yohenry Brito, 24, Jandry Barros, 21, Darwin Andres Gomez Izquiel, 19, Kelvin Servat Arocha, 19, Wilson Juarez, 21, and Yorman Reveron, 24.
Reveron has two pending cases in Manhattan for assault and robbery. Barros’ charges in the officer assault were dropped by Bragg’s office, citing a lack of evidence, but he has an open case in Queens on counts of resisting arrest, petit larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.
Fox News’ Deirdre Heavey contributed to this report.