NEW YORK — A former police officer accused of knocking down a bike-riding demonstrator and lying about it told jurors Friday he was just trying to protect himself and never meant to misrepresent what happened in a clash caught on video.
Patrick Pogan said he'd told the cyclist, Christopher Long, to stop for a traffic summons as he pedaled through Times Square. But Long kept pedaling and lowered his shoulder as though preparing to hit him, Pogan said.
"I used my arms to get that bicycle away from me," Pogan testified at his criminal trial on charges. "There was definitely a force coming at me that I had to stop."
"I know it was extreme, but I took a larger impact," he added.
It was the first time Pogan has publicly explained his version of the July 2008 encounter, which was captured on a video that drew millions of online views, spurred the city to pay Long $65,000 and prompted Pogan to resign the police job he had held for only 11 days before the confrontation. If convicted, he could face up to four years in prison.
He was charged after the video, shot by a Florida tourist, appeared on YouTube and contradicted his report of Long ramming him and knocking him over. Pogan said Friday he had simply gotten confused when making his initial report.
"I never intended to lie at any point," he said, noting that he tumbled to the ground later while struggling with Long.
Pogan and Long crossed paths during Critical Mass, a freewheeling monthly pro-bicycling event that had long caused tensions between police and participants. Pogan was part of a group of rookie officers assigned to keep order and watch out for traffic violations as the cyclists passed through Times Square on July 25, 2008.
As Long approached, Pogan decided to ticket him for such infractions as taking his hands off his handlebars and riding down the middle of the street instead of the side.
Pogan said he instructed Long to stop - which Long denied - and walked toward him as the cyclist veered toward the sidewalk. Then he saw Long lower his shoulder and feared "he was going to try to come through me," he said.
Long told jurors earlier this week that he leaned his shoulder toward Pogan to brace himself for being hit. He was launched off his bike and landed on a sidewalk grate. He wasn't seriously hurt.
In the aftermath, Long darted away from Pogan and another officer and writhed and taunted them - "What are you waiting for? Assault me!" - as they tried to handcuff him, as witness videos also showed.
Long was arrested on attempted assault and other charges. They were later dropped. The 31-year-old sued the city and reached a $65,000 settlement. Pogan's lawyer, Stuart London, argues that Long was looking to profit from a tangle with officers.
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Pogan, whose father is a retired New York Police Department detective, resigned from the force in February 2009. The younger Pogan, 24, has worked construction jobs since then, his lawyer said.