Teen Arrested in Assault of Off-Duty Firefighter Who Was Defending Elderly Couple

By Zachary Stieber

One of six teenagers who allegedly ganged up on an off-duty New York City firefighter has been arrested, police said on May 23.

The group was captured on surveillance video on May 18 walking near the scene of the assault.

The New York Police Department said that Damir Johnson, 17, was apprehended late Wednesday. Johnson is on the far right of the group photo.

He was charged with assault.

Johnson and the other teens are accused of assaulting off-duty firefighter John Mongiello, 38.

Dermot Shea, the department’s chief of detectives, announced the arrest.

He said that Mongiello, “a good Samaritan,” is still recovering from his injuries.

“We thank him for his actions and wish him a swift recovery,” he said.

Police told the New York Post that an anonymous tip led officers to Johnson’s house, where a family member confirmed his identity.

Johnson has three priors from this year: robbery, attempted robbery, and grand larceny.

Investigators are still searching for the five other suspects.

According to police, Mongiello noticed the group harassing an elderly couple and tried to intervene.

That’s when the group turned on him, punching him, knocking him to the ground, and continuing to strike him.

According to the NY Daily News, Mongiello lost five teeth, suffered a concussion, and required 25 stitches to close a head wound. He was treated at a local hospital and later released.

“He saw somebody in trouble and he thought he could help them, and now he’s suffering for it,” the firefighter’s mother told the outlet.

“He was off-duty, but he was acting to keep the peace of New York City, which is his job. Even though he’s hurt, I’m extremely proud of him. He was trying to help somebody else, and anybody would be proud of a son who did that. But my heart breaks to look at him.“

The New York Police Department asked members of the public to come forward with tips that will help officers find the teens.

The department’s 19th Precinct shared a picture of an officer putting up a wanted poster, adding that officers were “flooding East 86th Street with images of suspect wanted for assault of an off-duty firefighter who intervened while a group of teens harassed an elderly couple in front of 217 E 86 St. on 5/18.”

The suspects are believed to be between 15 and 17 years old.

Anyone with information was asked to call the department at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). Spanish speakers can call 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).