A man who was shot in the face by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent during an arrest in New York filed a federal lawsuit against the officer on Wednesday.
Erick Diaz Cruz was shot "in the face at point blank range" while visiting from Mexico earlier this month while at his mother’s home in Brooklyn when immigration officers came to arrest her partner, according to the lawsuit.
Diaz Cruz, 26, left the house to find two officers in a confrontation with his mother’s partner on the street, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the Eastern District of New York.
"Minutes later, standing only a few feet from one of the officers, Mr. Diaz Cruz saw the ICE officer reach for something at his hip," the lawsuit said. "Mr. Diaz Cruz covered his face for protection. The ICE officer fired a gun directly at Mr. Diaz Cruz’s face."
The bullet went through the man’s left hand and into his left cheek, according to the lawsuit.
The complaint said Diaz Cruz and the others at the scene were unarmed.
“The officers were not under threat by Mr. Diaz Cruz or anyone else near him — much less in immediate danger of deadly or serious bodily harm,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said the shooting left him with “grave and permanent injuries,” and that Diaz Cruz has multiples fractures in his face and the bullet remains lodged in his neck.
“This is not just an attack against me, but also an attack against the entire Latino community in the United States,” Diaz Cruz said in a statement. “This is the right time for our community to come together to protest against and protect ourselves from ICE’s violence.”
The suit is seeking monetary damages.
ICE said in a statement at the time of the incident that two officers were also hospitalized for treatment and that an officer “discharged at least one firearm ... when officers were physically attacked while attempting to arrest Gasper Avendando-Hernandez, a twice-removed illegal alien from Mexico with a 2011 assault conviction in New York City."
Avendando-Hernandez had been arrested on Feb. 3 for allegedly possessing a forged instrument, a felony, but he was released from custody before ICE could put a hold on him, the agency said.
ICE and the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to request for comment.