Queens man who died after cop fight acted in self-defense: lawyer

A bat-wielding Queens man who died after a fight with two off-duty cops was merely defending himself from two brawnier men who played for the NYPD’s football team, a lawyer charged Monday.

The lawyer, David Dean, said the cops, Frank Soler and Richard Pimental, left their car first and approached Michael Murphy before he picked up the bat during a road rage incident back in April 2010 in Queens.

Soler then sucker-punched Murphy, knocking him to the ground, Dean said in Queens Supreme Court in the trial for a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the city by Murphy’s family.

“He punched him, knocked him to the ground and killed him,” Dean said, pointing at a stone-faced Soler.

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Jared Hatcliffe, a lawyer for the city, contended the two young cops were defending themselves.

"This is a case about alcohol and anger," Hatcliffe said.

Dean contended that after a small accident, both young cops followed Murphy and approached him without identifying themselves.

He said they were most likely intimidating to Murphy as two young and athletic men, who played for the NYPD football team.

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Dean said the two cops got into a struggle with Murphy, who had pick up the bat. The cops quickly succeed in disarming him, before Soler punched him, he said.

Dean disputed Soler’s claim that Murphy was the aggressor.

"That is falsehood,” Dean said. “He sucked punched him when Mike wasn't looking, fracturing his skull.”

Dean also lashed out at Murphy's alcohol test, one he admitted came back at .014, above the legal limit of .08.

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"It's an example of blaming the victim," he said. "The police reacted with excessive, reckless conduct."

Murphy’s widow and Soler and Pimental sat in the front row in the courtroom, separated by an aisle. She dried tears on her face during the testimony.

Hatcliffe, the city’s lawyer, said that after Murphy bumped a car containing Soler and Pimental, he kept going and skipped several red lights because he was drunk.

"He blew several red lights because he knew he was drunk and didn't want to get caught."

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He said the cops followed him and forced him to stop.

"Mr. Murphy gets out of the car with a bat,” he said. “He gets in a battle stance. He lets these two individuals know that he means business.”

He said after a quick confrontation, Murphy nipped Soler in the head before he's disarmed. Soler's pal goes off to deal with Murphy's passenger.

"When you drink this much alcohol, you have bad judgement," he said.

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Murphy went after Solar a second time, Hatcliffe said, and this time Soler punched him.

"He (Soler) punches him one time. Unfortunately Mr. Murphy is so drunk he fell back and hit his head on the ground."

He said Soler had a gun but never used it, opting for the "least amount of force."

"He did not want to shoot that day," he said. "The only one who could have prevented anyone from dying that day is Mr. Murphy."

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NYPD Sargent Frank Crocitto, the lead investigator at the scene, testified that he learned Murphy was likely to die a few minutes after arriving to the scene that night.

He said cops arrested Murphy at the scene - something Dean questioned him about.

"Did you think this unconscious guy likely to die was going to run away?"

"No."

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Crocitto also said it took him a few minutes to learn of the severity of Murphy's injuries.

"I didn't really see blood coming out. He appeared to be breathing," he said.

Dean described Murphy as a good man whose father was a retired city cop

"That's the guy who was killed by a cop, not a big guy, not tough guy, but a good guy who enjoyed life.”

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