City Must Pay Man $2.4M Settlement for Wrongful Arrest in Stabbing
A JURY awarded $2.4 million Thursday to a Bronx man who was arrested for a stabbing he didn’t commit in an apparent case of a mistaken hoodie.
Tokunbo Onilude, 32, was walking to his Eastchester home when two police officers stopped him and took him to the NYPD’s 49th Precinct stationhouse for questioning on Sept. 16, 2008.
Nine days earlier, Diaby Bafode, a livery cab driver, crashed into a parked car after he was repeatedly stabbed during a robbery.
The crash occurred down the block from Burke and Hering Aves., where Onilude lived with his mother and brother.
Detective Jorge Chico said witness Andrea Lounds told him she heard the crash and saw two black men running away as she sat on her porch.
More than a week later, Lounds hailed two cops in their patrol car as they drove by the area. She told the officers two black men in hoodies, who she previously saw running from the crime scene, were on Hering Ave.
The officers drove down the block, spotted Onilude in a hoodie walking in the opposite direction, and took him into custody. But they later testified they never brought Onilude back to Lounds to check if he was the person she had seen.
During questioning in the precinct, Onilude said he was with his girlfriend the day of the stabbing. He acknowledged being at the scene after the driver was attacked — but he strenuously denied being involved in the crime. The questioning lasted 18 hours in a small room, where Onilude was cuffed to a vent.
Chico later told Onilude the victim identified him from a photo lineup displayed at his hospital bedside. But in court, Onilude’s lawyers argued the detective never got that identification, noting there was no written record of it. In fact, there are no pages left in Chico’s memo book after Onilude’s arrest.
Onilude was held on Rikers Island for 15 days and spent all of his free time in the law library desperately researching his options. He was released after the case was not immediately brought before a grand jury but spent the next seven months facing attempted murder charges with a 25-year prison sentence if convicted.
The case was finally dropped in 2009. Onilude subsequently sued the NYPD, arguing cops never had probable cause to arrest him and noting there was no fingerprint match or witness identification.
A year later, he moved with his wife and young son to Savannah, Ga., where he got work as a school custodian. He left New York largely because it was difficult to deal with the stares in the neighborhood from people who knew he was arrested and charged with such a serious crime, his friends say.
Onilude’s lawyer, Glenn Miller, hailed the verdict, reached after 2½ days of deliberation.
“The jury unanimously accepted our claim that Detective Chico had no basis to charge Mr. Onilude with any crime,” he said in a statement. “Hopefully, the jury’s verdict will send a message to the NYPD that false charges are unacceptable.”
Bafode flew home to West Africa, where his brother said he died within a year due of complications from the attack
The NYPD closed the investigation after Onilude was arrested. No one else has ever been apprehended.