An off-duty New York City correction officer accused of gunning down a Bronx teenager opened fire because he feared for his life his attorney said Friday — as the jail guard’s union came to his defense saying they think the incident has been portrayed unfairly.
Dion Middleton, 45, fired a single shot toward a car that allegedly killed 18-year-old Raymond Chaluisant after he felt a “stinging in his back” and saw a passenger in a car making a hand gesture, said Joey Jackson, who is the attorney for the correction officers’ union.
“I’m trying to provide context,” Jackson said in Bronx Criminal Court. “That context would suggest to the court that at the time my client discharged a single round, he was doing so under the belief that he was in immediate fear of death of his life.”
Benny Boscio, president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, defended Middleton on Friday and called the type of water pistol “an ongoing threat to public safety.”
“While this incident remains under investigation, we are aware that the media has reported a number of things which are not based in facts,” Boscio said in a statement. “Our officer fired a single shot in a situation where he felt his life was in immediate danger, particularly after feeling something hit his back.”
An NYPD traffic officer was also hit with pellets in the same vicinity, Boscio claimed.
“Toy guns no longer resemble toys, as the images of this water pistol demonstrate and they remain an ongoing threat to public safety,” said Boscio. “We will provide Officer Middleton with the best possible representation to ensure that his legal rights are protected.”
Several correction officers and Middleton’s family watched the court proceedings. His family declined to comment to a reporter from The Post.
Chaluisant, who was shot in the face as he sat in the passenger side of an Acura early Thursday, had an Orbeez water-pellet gun on him when he died.
“Let’s call it what it is, a weapon. It looks real and it’s a weapon that shoots pellets which tends to hurt,” Jackson said, implying the teen may have been taking part in a viral TikTok challenge with the Orbeez.
“This is all the rage on TikTok and I think a lot more young people are going to have significant issues in the event that they continue to use it,” Jackson told Judge Jeffrey Zimmerman.
Orbeez pellets are soft to the touch, but they can lead to injury and even break the skin when shot from a gun.
Middleton, who appeared in khakis and a purple shirt with the word “Survivor” on it, was ordered held on $1 million bond, $1 million partially secured bond, $500,000 cash or $500,000 credit card, according to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office.
“My client would have no reason to know how old the person was who was shooting at him at the time,” Jackson added.
“The only thing my client intended to do was have the ability to go home to his loved ones that evening and in turning around and engaging with this car, he wasn’t trying to kill anyone he was trying to protect and preserve himself.”
But Justin Siebel, a prosecutor with state Attorney General Letitia James’ office, which is prosecuting the case because a correction officer is involved, said by the correction officer’s own admission he never saw anyone holding a firearm or weapon and never heard shots fired.
“He also stated that he was not injured and he was not hurt and he was not shot,” Siebel said. “The defendant then continued walking on his regular course and did not at any point stop and call the police or inform anybody.”
“His actions show that he does not intend to and definitely did not intend to at the time take any responsibility for the fact that he had just fired a round,” Siebel added.
The judge said he believed the correction officer was a flight risk and questioned if he had thought he was hit by a shot.
“It doesn’t seem to indicate in his statement that he knew he had been shot,” Zimmerman said. “He talks about feeling a stinging. It felt like glass, but he doesn’t say I know I was shot.”