Source: Thabo Sefolosha provoked by New York police before arrest
Questions continue to swirl around the arrest of Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha and the injuries he sustained in the early morning hours last Wednesday following the stabbing of Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland and two other people.
Sefolosha, who will miss the playoffs after undergoing season-ending surgery for a fractured tibia and ligament damage, released a statement Tuesday that said he had “experienced a significant injury and that the injury was caused by the police.” A New York Police Department spokesperson said the incident is being investigated by the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.
A source close to Sefolosha, who did not witness the incident but has spoken to several people who did, told SI.com a divergent view of what happened from the official police account.
According to the criminal complaint against Sefolosha, an officer arrested the Hawks player and teammate Pero Antic after they refused six times to comply with his request to disperse from the crime scene. According to the complaint, an officer “observed the defendant Thabo Sefolosha run in an aggressive manner towards the direction” of another officer.
But according to the source, it was the officer who was the initial aggressor. The source said that while officers were dispersing dozens of people near the scene, one officer focused on Sefolosha, “and then he continues to track him down the block like a D-back tracking a receiver.”
At the time, the source said, Sefolosha and Antic were walking down the block to get into a car that would take them back to their team hotel. The source said Sefolosha did not run toward the cop as the complaint said. Rather, the source said “Sefolosha turns to him and asked in substance what the officer’s problem was with him.’” At this point, the source said, Sefolosha and the officer got into an argument, which led to Sefolosha’s arrest for obstruction of a governmental function, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The arrest took place at the corner of 10th Avenue, more than 120 feet away from the scene of the stabbing at 1OAK night club.
Antic was also arrested and charged with obstructing a governmental function, disorderly conduct, and harassment. According to an NYPD spokesperson, he was initially charged with menacing “for physically grabbing a police officer,” but these charges do not appear in the criminal complaint against him. The source said that rather than grabbing the officer, Antic “tapped the officer on the shoulder.”
An NYPD spokesperson said that after Sefolosha was arrested, he complained of pain in his right leg, but that he refused medical attention. Alex Spiro, the attorney for both Sefolosha and Antic, said that he advised Sefolosha to appear before the judge before he went to the hospital.
Spiro said, “As the investigation continues, we fully expect the charges against both players to be dismissed.”