NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The co-owner of a Staten Island bar that authorities said has been defying coronavirus restrictions was arrested early Sunday after hitting a New York City Sheriff's Deputy with a car, authorities said.
Danny Presti fled from his bar, Mac's Public House, after deputies observed patrons entering the establishment Saturday night in violation of city and state closure orders, Sheriff Joseph Fucito said.
Deputies attempted to arrest Presti as he left the bar early Sunday, but he got into his car, struck a deputy and kept driving for about 100 yards even as the deputy was left hanging onto the hood, Fucito said.
Presti, 34, was eventually stopped and taken into custody, the sheriff said. He has been charged with assault, the NYPD confirmed.
Fucito told CBS2's Cory James the deputies were in standard police uniform, and identified themselves as law enforcement officers, adding the deputy who was struck suffered broken bones in both legs.
Mac's Public House was the site of protests last week after the sheriff's office said plainclothes officers were able to go inside and order food and beverages on Tuesday. Presti, who also manages the bar, was arrested at the time.
The tavern is in an area designated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as an orange zone because of spiking COVID-19 rates and was not supposed to be serving customers indoors. But the owners had declared the bar an "autonomous zone," a nod to protesters who claimed control over a Seattle neighborhood in June.
A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio said Presti's actions showed a disregard for human life.
"In both of these instances, whether it's flouting public health laws or ramming a car into a uniformed deputy, this individual has endangered the lives of others," said the spokesperson, Bill Neidhardt.
Presti's attorneys, Mark Fonte and Louis Gelormino, issued the following statement:
"Last night Mr. Presti was approached on the street, well past midnight, by two Sherrif personnel dressed in their dark uniforms. Without identifying themselves as Officers they proceeded to yell, 'Presti,' and run towards him.
"Mr. Presti, who has received numerous death threats, became scared for his life and headed for the safety of his vehicle. He proceeded a short distance before being swarmed by Sheriff vehicles and being ripped out of his car. He had no idea the two men running at him were Sheriff Officers. He is unaware of how anyone sustained injury.
"Proper procedures were clearly not followed by the Sherrifs who are unaccustomed to these law enforcement duties. They are clearly untrained and outside their element. I urge the City to immediately institute a training program for this Department before more people are injured."
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Authorities said the bar was still serving patrons Saturday night even though it was ordered closed entirely after Presti's earlier arrest.
Deputies surveilling the pub saw that the front door to the bar was locked but customers were being directed to a building next door, Fucito said. From there, they were able to enter Mac's Public House through a back door and order food and beverages, he said.
The business has been cited more than a dozen times.
"To be honest with you, I think they're idiots," one neighbor told CBS2's Nick Caloway.
The controversy has garnered strong reactions from the community.
"It's just senseless what's going on. I understand. I feel for the guy. I feel for a lot of people. But this thing is out of control," neighbor Larry Thagduen said.
"I mean, the guy wants to make a living. He has nurtured a business. He has grown a business," Dan Girolamo said. "At the same time, this virus is very serious. I mean, it's getting worse."
But the business owners have garnered massive support for defying the governor and mayor. Chopper 2 was over a massive rally in the street last week in support of the business.
One of Presti's friends said the government has offered no relief to small business owners, so they have no choice but to open.
"He's fighting for small businesses. He's fighting to provide for his family. And he's trying to appeal to the federal government to try to get us as much money, or anything, that we can, so we can survive and make it through the winter," Joe Cannizzo said.
Sheriff's deputies remain staked out to monitor the bar.
Presti's business partner is expected to hold a press conference in front of the establishment on Monday morning.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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