A man once described as one of Brooklyn’s most violent gang members who was arrested in an armed robbery in Soho this month says It is a victim – claiming in legal documents that the cops had been too hard on him in two previous arrests.
Ricardo Forde, 25, of Brooklyn, said in a 2021 federal lawsuit that it was the NYPD that injured him, “deprived of his liberty” and unable to enjoy his life, according to court documents.
“Criminals feel like they’re always in the right moment. They are being persecuted by the police,” said Joseph Giacalone, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former NYPD sergeant. “Right now they see the criminal justice system as weak and they’re going to take advantage of any opportunities that are available to them.”
Forde, 25, was reportedly among five men who targeted the Rebag store at 390 West Broadway on May 5 and smashed windows with hammers to remove eight handbags worth $24,700. Employees and terrified shoppers at the high-end designer resale boutique ran to the back of the store, according to criminal complaints.
Forde is accused of fleeing in a Jeep, then hitting a police car before jumping out and driving away. The police caught him and he was charged with theft among other counts.
“Well, that doesn’t help his case, that’s for sure,” said Craig Phemister, Forde’s former attorney in his 2021 federal lawsuit against the city.
The lawsuit came after Forde was arrested in September 2018 in Crown Heights, when he was accused of fleeing police by taking a loaded .380 caliber Cobra Enterprises pistol to his waist and throwing it aside, according to the affidavit of an NYPD detective.
The affidavit notes that police “struggled” to arrest Forde, who was then on probation following an earlier conviction.
The 25-year-old belongs to the Gates Fam gang in Brooklyn, according to law enforcement sources. He was charged with attempted murder in the 2015 shooting of a 17-year-old in Brooklyn. He pleaded guilty to a weapons possession charge and served 17 months in state prison, records show.
Forde alleges he was beaten by officers who handcuffed him too tightly during the 2018 arrest and then delayed his medical treatment, according to court documents.
The city’s firearms case was dismissed, but he was later charged with a federal count of possession of firearms as a convicted felon. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 months in prison and three years of probation.
Forde was re-arrested in April 2020, and in another lawsuit filed in the state Supreme Court, officers claimed to have sexually abused and assaulted him. They placed him in a “dirty, infested and overcrowded holding cell” and also refused to give him a mask to protect him from COVID-19, according to the lawsuit filed in Brooklyn State Supreme Court in 2021 .
This lawsuit and the federal lawsuit are ongoing and seek unspecified damages.
Forde was sentenced to another six months in 2021 for violating the terms of his probation, including allegedly hanging out with gang members. He was released on probation on December 7, 2021, five months before his last arrest.
Ellie Silverman, the attorney currently representing him in his lawsuit against the city, said an “arrest doesn’t make someone guilty.”
“I will say there is a pattern of harassment that happened in Mr. Forde’s life from particular officers in certain areas of New York City,” Silverman said. “I don’t have enough information to determine whether or not I think this particular arrest is warranted or not.”
Silverman said she had no information about Forde’s alleged gang affiliation.
“A lot of times people are misidentified as gang members,” she said.
Forde is now back in federal custody and being held without bond in the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center after being charged with committing robbery under Hobbs Law for the Soho heist. A complaint alleges that the store’s designer products are sometimes sold online to overseas buyers or tourists.
The NYPD declined to comment on Forde’s costumes.
The city’s legal department said it was fighting them both.
“He is in possession of a firearm, a deadly threat. We are defending these officers,” spokesman Nicholas Paolucci said of the federal lawsuit.