(CBS News) At least three off-duty police officers say they were part of a motorcycle group that was involved in a violent assault of an SUV driver last weekend in New York City.
One of them, a detective who works undercover, even saw the attack. But apparently fearful of revealing his identity, he did not intervene. The undercover detective waited several days before coming forward. It's unclear if the other two off-duty officers also witnessed the beating.
They will all be stripped of their guns and badges and have been placed on desk duty, pending an investigation.
CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former New York deputy police commissioner, said this case is about when the officers decided to come forward. He explained on "CBS This Morning," "On Wednesday of last week the undercover detective comes forward and says, 'I was there, I saw the beating, I didn't want to break my cover.' He's assigned to the intelligence division and some of the people there are under deep cover and they're training is, even under pressure, you don't admit who you really are. He would be in a lot less trouble if he would [have] come forward the first day instead of four days later. Since that, now this is what's happening. They reading in the papers, they're hearing on television that a police officer has come forward. Two other police officers who were also riding with the group that day. One of whom was a sergeant. That's a supervisor and another of whom is a detective, who is a police officer who is undercover in internal affairs. The irony there is that's the group that enforces police discipline and misconduct have come forward or notified the department about their intention to come forward, and they're going to be sat down and (asked), 'Where were you, what did you see, what did you do, what did you not do, why did you wait to come forward'."
Sorting through the officers' stories is the next step in this investigation, Miller added. "We know of one (officer) who was there at the initial beating, but these other officers, one of the ones that's come forward says after the guy got run over by the SUV, 'I wasn't there for the rest of it.' ... Here's the problem they're going to face, which is whatever they did or didn't do that day is one issue, but not coming forward right away actually could rise to official misconduct for hindering an investigation once they were aware of it and that's a potential criminal charge."
The officers, Miller said, are going to be placed on modified assignments after their stories are weighed. "They could be suspended. This could be grounds for dismissal, especially if the -- this is the D.A.'s call. If the district attorney looks at their conduct and says that rises to official misconduct, 'Everybody knew this investigation was going forward, we needed this information and these guys didn't step forward as law enforcement officers' -- that could be violation of law."
Police arrested two of the alleged assailants over the weekend, and more arrests could be on the way. Police say the man seen pulling the Range Rover's door open is 35-year-old Robert Sims, of Brooklyn. And they say the man who later slammed his helmet against the driver's side window is Reginald Chance, 37, also from Brooklyn. Chance, CBS News has learned, already has 21 prior arrests on his record, including robbery and drug charges.
Chance's lawyer Gregory Watts says his client overreacted and broke the window, but denied taking part in the beating. He said, "If you look at the video, you will see my client immediately after smashing the window, returning to his bicycle. And there are still photographs in the possession of the district attorney that will show you that he's not physically present."
Watch Michelle Miller's full report below.
Speaking of Chance, Miller said, "The idea that people who ride in motorcycle gangs may involved in criminal activity or drugs is not strange. The idea that they're riding with police officers is a bit of a head-turner."
Miller said he expects changes to come in police policy. "What you're going to see is the police commissioner step forward and say, 'We're going to change the rules about what groups you can be a part of and what groups you can be a part of,' because this was as really bad example."
Both Chance and Sims have been charged with gang assault and other felonies. Sims, according to court documents, stomped on the head and body of the SUV driver, Alexian Lien.
An unknown attacker tried to yank his wife and 2-year-old daughter out of the vehicle.
Witness Sergio Consuegra said, "I heard a lot of people screaming, telling the man -- 'No not the woman! There's a child! There's a child! Not with the child!'"
Consuegra was late for church when he saw Lien being attacked by up to five men. Asked if he was being hit with a helmet, Consuegra said, "Yes, real hard, real hard. In the head."
Consuegra said he went straight to the man who was beating and got in the way. He said, "When they were attacking, they took a pause. That's when I stepped in. I said, 'That's it!' There were more coming. I said, 'That's it guy, let it go! Let it go!'"
Consuegra said he was shocked to hear police officers were on the scene and did nothing. He called the situation "like unbelievable." He added, "It made me angry, it made me sad, yeah, that knowing that it could have been avoided."
This weekend, police released pictures of two more persons of interest. They also continue to scour the video for clues about the other assailants.
As for the motorcyclist who took the video, Kevin Bresloff -- his attorney says he is cooperating with police and is not considered a suspect.