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Former Homeless Services Police Sergeant Faces Charges After Violent Encounter Caught On Video

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A former New York City homeless services police sergeant has been charged with assaulting a man seeking services at a homeless shelter.

Cordell Fitts was released on bail Thursday after his arrest on a federal charge of using excessive force.

His lawyer declined comment.

Prosecutors say the 34-year-old former peace officer assaulted an unidentified man who sought help at a Manhattan homeless shelter in March 2017.

Prosecutors say Fitts put his hands on the man's chest, who in returned swung closed fists at the former officer. They say Fitts then kicked, punched and stomped on the head of the man more than 10 times.

Prosecutors say Fitts later dictated a report about the incident, saying he used necessary force to "safely detain" the man.

"Fitts's alleged conduct not only betrayed his duty as an officer to protect those under his charge, but also violated the law.  When the constitutional rights of individuals experiencing homelessness are violated, particularly by law enforcement officers, we will act aggressively to bring wrongdoers to justice," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.

If convicted, Fitts could face up to 10 years in prison.

Mayor Bill de Blasio sounded off on the incident on Twitter, saying "the abuse in this video is sickening," called it an "horrific breach of trust" and adding "we have zero tolerance for it."

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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