Inside Internal AffairsLI woman describes emotional trauma of sexual attack in police station by Suffolk officer
Content warning: This story and video contain descriptions of sexual assault.
The Suffolk County police officer stood with his back to the door in a closed interview room, face-to-face with a young mother he and his partner had arrested.
They were in the First Precinct building in West Babylon in March 2017. The room had no security cameras. Christopher McCoy opened his uniform pants, the woman recalled, grabbed her by the jaw and pushed her to her knees to force oral sex on her.
Afraid of how he could punish her — mortally afraid, even — she submitted in tears.
“So, I just did whatever I felt I needed to do to survive,” the woman, then 30, said in a recent Newsday interview.
When McCoy finished, he gave her a tissue and told her to clean herself. Covertly, she spit onto her lavender sweater to capture his DNA as evidence.
Newsday is withholding her identity because she is a sexual crime victim. The trauma was especially intense, the woman said, because she had been raped more than a decade earlier.
She was 19 at the time and in her own home with a man.
“I wasn’t a drinker,” she said, yet she had a drink with him and then, “I was falling in and out of consciousness.”
She awakened in horror.
“I got raped on my own bathroom floor,” she said, adding, “I was literally unconscious, waking up screaming.”
That man escaped punishment, she said. She delayed notifying police for a day and showered away possible evidence by the time a nurse conducted rape testing. The man contended that their sex had been consensual and, she said, police took his word over hers.
“The cop just insinuated to me that he thinks that I wanted to have sex with this person,” the woman said. “Never mind that my neighbors heard me screaming. I had witnesses, and it was just that the officer didn’t take it seriously.”
Now, in the confining First Precinct interview room, with McCoy watching her, that experience informed her action. She turned her head and spit.
“Let’s say that DNA wasn’t there,” the woman said. “I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.”
Almost 24 hours in custody
Often, she said, she replays the 24 hours she spent in Suffolk police custody beginning in the late morning of March 16, 2017, when she was the passenger in a friend’s car:
An unexplained traffic stop motivated, she suspects, by racial profiling in a predominantly minority community, Wyandanch.
An arrest on noncriminal charges that were later dismissed.
Two searches by McCoy during which she says he groped her: once within feet of his partner, Mark Pav, once in the precinct’s mug shot area.
Hours spent handcuffed to a metal table.
Two walks into the private interview room, where McCoy assaulted her twice, stopping the first time at the sound of footsteps in the hallway outside.
An ominous sense after the two searches, the two walks and the two assaults that no one in the precinct would help her.
“I couldn’t chalk this up to being like, ‘Oh, this is this one guy.’ It was to a point where it was like, ‘No, this is a system,’ like they’re leaving this man alone in this room to do what he’s doing to me,” the woman told Newsday. “I didn’t know what to do.”
The woman has sued McCoy, Pav and Suffolk County. McCoy, who is no longer on the police force, has defaulted, meaning that he failed to contest the case. The county has disputed her claims of liability against it and Pav, who has denied all knowledge of McCoy’s wrongdoing. A police internal affairs investigation took that same position while substantiating four rules and procedures violations against the partner.
Even so, internal affairs failed to file those charges within an 18-month statute of limitations, barring the police department from disciplining Pav. His violations included making admittedly false entries on the woman’s prisoner activity log, which failed to indicate she had ever been moved into the interview room.
‘He knew his power’
When the woman thinks back, she remembers freezing when McCoy searched her the first time — and she wonders whether protesting would have deterred him from doing worse to her.
“I don’t want to say that I gave him the impression, but the first time he groped me, I stiffened up, which is what a lot of victims do,” she said. “It’s going to be fight or flight. I’ll freeze, and I’m scared, and I’m gone, and I’m not there, and he took that as ‘Oh, I could go further’ when he groped me the first time.”
Sitting in her attorney’s Patchogue office one afternoon this past summer, she paused, fighting back tears.
“I’m so sorry. I don’t blame myself, I don’t want to make it seem like I’m blaming myself. I just feel like maybe in the precinct he would have left me alone. I don’t know that he just saw me and was like, ‘Oh, I must have this woman.’ I don’t think it was that. I think at some point, he knew his power and he took full advantage.”
But she had the sweater. She had the evidence.
Prosecutors in federal Eastern District court first charged McCoy with a felony civil rights violation that carried a seven-year sentence. After resigning his position while still suspended, he pleaded guilty in 2018 to a misdemeanor count and served one year in prison.
THE COURT: Did you have her consent to do this, sir?
THE DEFENDANT: No.Transcript of McCoy’s guilty plea
“I’m shocked something happened to him,” the woman said, more than four years after McCoy was arrested.
Today, she said, she suffers with severe anxiety and fear of police encounters. The former salon clerk and taxi driver can no longer imagine working at a public place where someone would have to call the police.
Instead, she is learning the trade of manicuring, hoping to go into business with her daughter, who graduated high school last spring. She still resides in Suffolk County, but hopes to leave soon.
“I never had a reason to be scared of cops,” she said. “And I never had a reason to think that they would do anything to me. I never did anything for them to do anything to me.
“Now, there are just a lot of times where I’m like, ‘There are just certain things that I just don’t want to be involved in.’ I stayed in my house a lot for the past few years.”
She recalled once encountering two uniformed police officers while she waited for the train at the Babylon Long Island Rail Road station, sometime after the incident inside the First Precinct.
“I remember getting up on a platform and just getting so scared. They were walking toward me,” the woman said. “They were just going to walk by. But my heart was beating so fast. So, I went around the corner.”
She began to cry, connecting the random encounter with the trauma of her fateful arrest by Pav and McCoy.
“I remember thinking, ‘I’m really willing to hop on those tracks to get away from them,'” she said. “I was so scared. And they didn’t even look like the two cops.”