Brittany Kriegstein, John Annese, Thomas Tracy and Wes Parnell
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — A Staten Island pub owner slammed his Jeep into a sheriff’s deputy in a desperate effort to evade arrest early Sunday for continuing to serve patrons in defiance of coronavirus restrictions, authorities said.
Daniel Presti, owner of Mac’s Pub, hopped in his turquoise Jeep and hit the gas, sending the deputy flying onto the hood just after midnight when officers tried to arrest him outside his bar, officials said.
The sheriff’s deputy, identified by sources as Sgt. Kenneth Matos, suffered two fractured tibias. He was taken to Staten Island University Hospital.
“He just doesn’t care about people’s lives. That’s what this comes down to,” Bill Neidhardt, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said Sunday.
“He doesn’t care if his pub spreads a deadly virus. He doesn’t care if a uniformed officer is clinging for life on the hood of his car. It’s truly horrible and unacceptable and the people of New York City will reject this disgusting way of thinking.”
The New York City Sheriff’s Office had been conducting surveillance Saturday night on the bar, which has been a rallying point for people angry over COVID restrictions.
Despite blacked out windows obscuring the view inside the bar, deputies spotted patrons being led into the shuttered building next door then ushered through a back door into the pub where alcohol and food was being served with no masks, officials said.
The Sheriff’s Office watched as patrons entered and exited through the side building, guided by a woman working for the pub. Around 10 p.m. 30 patrons were seen exiting the bar through the side building, officials said.
Mac’s Pub had been shut down on Monday and its liquor license revoked after Presti continued to serve alcohol and food inside the bar, which is located in an orange zone where restaurants are only allowed to serve diners outdoors or by takeout due to rising COVID-19 cases.
In an attempt to get around liquor license regulations, the pub released a video declaring they would stay open but serve alcohol for free, taking only donations. However, restaurants and bars need liquor licenses to serve alcohol, even if it’s free.
With enough evidence that the pub failed to follow COVID-19 guidelines, the Sheriff’s Office lay in wait until Presti walked out after midnight Sunday.
Headed to his parked Jeep, two deputies identified themselves and stopped Presti, shouting “Presti,” but the bar owner ran off, hopped in his vehicle and hit the gas, officials said.
Presti allegedly slammed into one of the deputies, who toppled over the bumper and clung to the hood as the bar owner drove his vehicle three blocks, making two left turns before being stopped by officers, officials said.
“The defendant ran to his motor vehicle… and intentionally and with depraved indifference to human life struck Sergeant Matos,” according to the criminal complaint.
He was arrested and taken to the 122nd Precinct stationhouse.
Presti’s attorney, Mark Fonte, said that he had not seen evidence to support the sheriff’s allegations.
“How does something escalate from making burgers to assault?” Fonte said. “Only the bumbling sheriffs could escalate it like this.”
The bar posted a defiant message on Facebook after the arrest that was later removed.
“The sheriffs hid like snakes in the grass and waited till Danny left to finally go home and get some rest! They had 6 undercover cars swarm him as he was getting in his car,” the post read. “We will not back down! You have not scared us!! The world is watching and it’s time for everyone to wake up!”
On Nov. 20, the pub declared itself an “autonomous zone” hanging signs outside stating it would not follow state COVID-19 guidelines. The bar also launched a fundraiser Tuesday, raising over $80,000 in donations.
A rally on Tuesday drew members of the Proud Boys — and de Blasio’s condemnation, while local reactions were mixed in regards to the rally.
But some of the same protesters from last week showed up at the bar Sunday after hearing of Presti’s arrest.
“It’s crazy, it’s insanity,” protester Paul Grady, 57, said of Presti’s latest arrest. “It’s horrible. We’re here to support Mac’s and this is just out of control. It’s out of hand now.”
Presti was released without bail during his Sunday arraignment in Staten Island Criminal Court.
He is charged with assault with intent to cause injury to officer, reckless endangerment, fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle, obstructing government justice, resisting arrest, assault with intent to cause injury, menacing, reckless driving, failure to obey police officer, and unsafe movement of stopped motor vehicle.
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