BY THE VILLAGE SUN | A drug user whose sometimes-dangerous exhibitionist antics have kept Sixth Precinct police on their toes, is now cooling his heels on Rikers Island.
Stephen Flanagan, 32, has been detained in the much-criticized jail since Aug. 19, after he was arrested that day for robbery just a block from Washington Square Park, where he often hangs out.
According to the criminal complaint filed by the Manhattan district attorney, Flanagan and another man entered a pizza place at 333 Sixth Ave., between W. Third and W. Fourth Streets, around 3 p.m. Flanagan reportedly broke a glass bottle, pointed it at worker and demanded money. After the worker handed the men $20 each, they left.
According to a deposition by the arresting officer from the Sixth Precinct, about an hour and a half later, as he was investigating the incident, Flanagan came up to him and his fellow officers.
“The defendant stated in substance, ‘I broke the glass bottle and I took his money,'” the officer said. “The [pizzeria worker] also identified the defendant as the person who was holding the bottle.”
Flanagan is charged with robbery in the first degree, a felony. The D.A. had requested bail be set at $30,000, but a judge lowered it to $10,000. Flanagan’s next court date is on Dec. 22.
Deputy Inspector Stephen Spataro, the commanding officer of Greenwich Village’s Sixth Precinct, said Flanagan is well known to the precinct. Speaking to The Village Sun this past summer, Spataro said the system was failing Flanagan, who often puts himself in tenuous situations.
“We’ve brought him into custody over half a dozen times,” Spataro said at the time. “He tried to kill himself numerous times. He climbed up in the [cherry picker] bucket [in Washington Square Park], said he was going to jump. He went up to the Burlington store on 14th Street, said he was going to jump [off the interior ledge where the escalators are]. He needs help and he’s not getting it from the hospital or the D.A.’s office. He’s been released from Bellevue and Beth Israel [hospitals] in the past couple of years about six to 10 times. He said he wants treatment,” Spataro maintained.
On another occasion, as documented on an Instagram post, Flanagan hopped down onto subway tracks in Midtown and — while grinning up at police — blocked a train from moving until officers were able to remove him.
“He’s like a microcosm” of how people are falling through the cracks, Spataro said. “These are institutions that aren’t functioning properly,” he said of the hospitals and D.A.’s office.
When The Village Sun spoke to Flanagan in Washington Square Park this past July, he was affable and lighthearted. He related that he had played college basketball at the University of Bridgeport and claimed to be the nephew of famed boxer Sugar Ray Leonard.
He bragged about the attention he had recently gotten from climbing the cherry picker in the park naked, during which he had shouted out to the crowd, like Russell Crowe’s character in the movie “Gladiator,” “Are you not entertained?”
“Yeah, I went viral. I got a million views — viral,” he boasted. “Viral on Tik Tok, YouTube and Twitter right now. I’m the most searched-for man in New York City right now.”
After another park regular kept goading him, though, Flanagan proclaimed that he loves smoking crack cocaine, admitting that the money he panhandles, allegedly for food, actually goes straight toward buying his next $8 “dime” of crack.
Also in July, the newspaper reported how Flanagan sat in traffic in his underwear at W. Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue until he was taken away in an ambulance.
The New York Post reported that some parkgoers told the paper that Flanagan suffers from mental health issues.
One Sixth Precinct cop, who requested anonymity, said he thinks Flanagan also simply just likes the attention. He noted he once saw a social-media post of Flanagan in earlier times in Midtown looking well put-together and wearing a suit.