A Brooklyn homeless man was busted three times in just 36 hours last week, boasting to NYPD cops that he would dodge bail at each turn because he “didn’t have a record.”
He proved to be right.
Agustin Garcia, 63, was charged with robbing two Manhattan straphangers — wielding a knife against one of them — and stealing a beer from a Bronx bodega in rapid succession, prosecutors and law-enforcement sources told The Post.
Manhattan prosecutors twice asked that Garcia be held on bail amid his alleged crime spree, only to be denied by judges.
It wasn’t until the suspect was busted a third time that he was sent to Bellevue Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, although still without any bail to keep him locked up.
“We can arrest people, we can cut them loose, incarcerate them, but it’s not addressing the underlying problems,” said a frustrated law-enforcement source.
“There are so many underlying issues when it comes to revolving-door criminal-justice problems. But by far, the No. 1 issue we see in cases … is mental health.”
Garcia’s distraught brother Jose said the source was spot-on in his sibling’s case.
“My brother is a sick person,” Jose Garcia told The Post on Sunday, saying Agustin suffers from schizophrenia. “He’s been sick for the past 35 years.
“When he goes to the hospital and is committed there, sometimes for a month or two, he sometimes doesn’t get the treatment completely, and they release him. And once they release him, the problem comes back again.”
Agustin Garcia’s alleged 36-hour crime spree began around 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21 when police say he swiped a dozen cans of Coors Light beer from a bodega on East 165th Street in The Bronx. The suspect was charged with petty larceny.
Cops released him on a desk-appearance ticket pending a court hearing.
Then just a few hours later, Garcia was back in handcuffs.
Police said he was busted again around 3 a.m. Nov. 22 at the Canal Street subway station in Manhattan after allegedly stealing a straphanger’s backpack and pulling a knife on her while warning her to “stay back” when she followed him.
“I know I’m getting out,” Garcia boasted to cops at the Fifth Precinct station house after his arrest, according to sources. “I have no record.”
Garcia, who sources said has no prior convictions, was charged with felony robbery, and Manhattan prosecutors asked that he be held on $15,000 cash bail or a $45,000 bond.
But Garcia was cut loose on supervised release without bail by Manhattan Criminal Court Judge James Clynes.
Back on the street again, the suspect stole an iPhone from another straphanger at the West 145th Street/Lenox Avenue subway station around 7:15 a.m. Nov. 23 and fled with it into the subway tunnel, cops said.
Police caught him when he tried to climb up a subway platform back into the station, sources said.
This time, Garcia was charged with grand larceny and criminal trespassing.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said it again tried to have Garcia jailed, recommending that he be kept behind bars on $20,000 cash bail or a $60,000 bond.
But Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Valentina Morales denied the request and instead ordered a 72-hour psych evaluation for Garcia at Bellevue.
New York City Sheriff’s Office deputies took Garcia into custody and transported him to the hospital for the evaluation.
It was unclear whether Garcia remained at Bellevue on Sunday. The Post was unable to confirm it either way with the hospital.
Jose said it was far from the first time his brother had been hospitalized. Agustin previously did stints at Jacobi, New York-Presbyterian and Gracie Square hospitals, the sibling said.
He said his brother belongs in a hospital, not on the street.
Agustin stops taking his meds because he believes “God will come down and cure him,” Jose said.
“I tell him, ‘You’ve got to understand that God gave humans the power to make those medications so you can survive. Use it!’ ” Jose said. “When he stops using it, we lost him. Forget it.”
He said his brother was once “sharp as a weasel,” employed as a supervisor at a welding company that worked on PATH trains, subway cars and even US Navy ships.
But in 1987, Agustin was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and his life spiraled downward, his brother said.
Recently, Agustin had been living in Harlem but was evicted from his apartment and moved into a Brooklyn homeless shelter, his brother said.
A spokesman for the state court system said the judges who declined to set bail on Agustin Garcia used their discretion, as they are authorized to do under the law.
“Nearly 300 defendants are arraigned every day in New York City Criminal Court,” wrote Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, in an e-mail to The Post.
“The one thing they all have in common is … a criminal court judge who, with purposely enacted, extremely limited discretion, must foretell the future,” Chalfen said.
“Unlike ‘the legislature’ or ‘the defendants’ or ‘the prosecutors,’ they are not amorphous,” he said of the judges. “They are the individuals holding up a metal rod as the thunder and lightning of our criminal justice system that no one wants to address passes over.”
But critics bemoaned what they called the city’s badly broken legal system.
“When we see the same [defendant] over and over … we see the same red flags,” another law-enforcement source said. “People are entering the system with serious mental, emotional illness and are coming out the same, if not worse.
“Bail reform is all well and good, but you have an oblibgation to do better than just send people who need a high level of care on their way so as not only to keep from reoffending but keep themselves safe. Ultimately that’s what keeps the community safe.”
Meanwhile, Jose Garcia insisted that despite his troubles, his brother has a good heart.
“You know what he does with his money, the money he receives from Social Security? He takes the money and gives it to the church,” Jose said. “When he’s his old way, believe me, he’s the most noble and helpful guy you can be with.
“He sees you cold and knows he has a coat at home, he gives it to you. That’s the kind of person he is.”