A man was left unconscious after a New York City police officer put him in a chokehold as three other officers held him down and held one of his arms behind his back. The arrest occurred in the Far Rockaway neighborhood of Brooklyn and is the latest in a string of use of force incidents that have put the NYPD under scrutiny.
The man was identified as Ricky Bellevue in the New York Daily News.
A 29-second video of the incident posted on Twitter appeared to show the officer holding Bellevue in a chokehold for several seconds until another officer taps him on the shoulder and he releases it; by that time, Bellevue appears to be unconscious.
City Councilman Candidate Anthony Beckford has already called for the officer in the video to be fired and charged. Beckford identified the officer as David Afanador.
According to what Afanador tells a bystander during the body cam footage, he had identified Bellevue as someone that he knew he was bipolar from Bellevue’s previous encounters with police.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea announced that the officer involved has since been suspended without pay.
According to the NYPD, the incident happened in the 100th Precinct on Sunday, June 21. The NYPD has since released body camera footage of the incident. The 35-minute body cam video can be watched below:
Ashley Bellevue, Ricky’s brother, told the New York Daily News that he was afraid for his brother, who is bipolar and was in an outpatient program that has been shut down because of coronavirus:
<blockquoteThose cops could have really hurt my brother. He couldn’t breathe. They could’ve killed him … In the video I don’t see that he did anything? The cops just jumped into action. He wasn’t a threat, he didn’t have a weapon. What are they (cops) practicing, what are they being taught? They could’ve treated him a little more fairly.
Bystanders Urged the Officer to Release the Chokehold
“Yo, stop choking him, bro!”
“Yeah, he’s choking him.”
“Let him go!”
Those were some of the comments that could be heard as the man’s neck was in a chokehold. One of the other officers pats the officer Beckford identified as Afanador on the back and he releases the hold.
After the officer stands up, an observer says, “Look at this, he’s out. Look at him, officer.”
The officer tells him, “Back off.”
“Yeah, f**k you. F**k you, Alfredo. F**k you,” the observer says before calling the officer an LGBTQ slur.
With three other officers on the scene and the man at least partially pinned to the ground, the reason for the chokehold is unclear.
The Officer Identified by Beckford Has Been Named in Lawsuits Before
David Afanador has been an officer since January 2005, according to CAPstat, a website that collects data on New York police officers’ names, salaries, conduct histories and other data.
In 2009, Afanador was named along with several other officers in “Williams v. City of New York et al.” In the complaint, Ranique Williams alleged that the officers targeted him while he was filming them performing a strip:
In retaliation, during the false arrest of plaintiff, defendants P.O. Rodriguez, P.O. Afanador, P.O.
Farrell, P.O. Davis, and P.O. Murphy committed excessive force against plaintiff by maliciously, gratuitously, and
unnecessarily pushing plaintiff, slapping plaintiff’s phone from his hand, grabbing plaintiff, repeatedly striking plaintiff in face and head, twisting plaintiff’s arms, placing excessively tight handcuffs on plaintiff’s wrists, lifting plaintiff from the ground by his handcuffs, yanking the chain of plaintiff’s handcuffs, punching plaintiff in the face while handcuffed and in a police vehicle, and pulling the hood of plaintiff’s sweat jacket over his head.
… In addition … unnecessarily dragging plaintiff from the police vehicle, and throwing him into a cell while he was handcuffed.
Williams received a $37,500 settlement as part of his case’s dismissal in 2010.
In 2015, Afanador was also named in another lawsuit, “Jack et al v. City of New York et al,” wherein he was named as one of three plainclothes officers who were involved in what was alleged to be a “warrantless” search.
According to the complaint listed in court documents, Charlene Jack alleged that she was told “Shut the f**k up you black b***h” and “slammed … into an adjoining wall.” She also said her sister was being shoved and a male who had arrived and asked the officers to stop was slammed to the ground and cuffed. Jack said none of the officers identified themselves.
Four other officers, the complaint alleged, “were assaulted and thrown to the floor, placed in cuffs and had guns placed to their heads.” The complaint further alleged property damaged:
Additional officers came in and ransacked the apartment. Doors were broken, the living room was upturned, and all of (the) plaintiffs’ possessions were removed from drawers and thrown on the floor and into the hallway. The officers found no weapons and no floor and into the hallway. The officers found no weapons and no contraband. The officers did not have a warrant.
All charges against Jack and the others arrested were dismissed, according to the court documents, and a dismissal document from 2016 implies that the lawsuit was settled. According to CAPstat, the case was settled for $70,000.
In 2015, Afanador was sued by Thomas Stevens, the father of Kaheem Tribble, who was a minor at the time that Stevens alleged Afanador and another officer, Tyrane Isaac, battered him. According to the New York Post, the two chased Tribble before he was cornered:
The video then shows a man ID’d as Isaacs and taking a swing at the teen, and Afanador lunging forward, gun drawn. Tribble testified the service weapon hit him in the mouth, breaking his two bottom teeth.
Afanador was also brought up on criminal charges by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that Isaac, according to the district attorney, punched Tribble several times in the face while he was down on the ground:
The longer video clip, the investigation further revealed, allegedly shows that Afanador was locating and retrieving a bag of marijuana that Tribble allegedly tossed before running away, approaching the teen with the bag and allegedly striking him in the face with it.
Afanador and Isaac were found not guilty by a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge in 2016.
Chokeholds Are Prohibited in the NYPD Patrol Guide
The NYPD has released a statement on Twitter acknowledging that they were aware of the video and were taking steps to investigate.
According to NYPD’s Patrol Guide, Procedure 221-01 defines a chokehold as follows: “A chokehold shall include, but is not limited to, any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.” On page 3 of the document, the guide clearly states: “Members of the service SHALL NOT: a. Use a chokehold.
The city council has been working on passing legislation to make using chokeholds criminally punishable after gaining support from top NYPD officials, local Spectrum station NY-1 reported. The bill would, “(make) it a misdemeanor to use a restraint that restricts air flow to the windpipe or diaphragm.”
Other NYPD officials have pushed back on some parts of the bill and Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said he was afraid the bill would put officers who merely touch criminals in jail.
Last August, Officer Daniel Pantaleo was fired for the chokehold he used in Eric Garner’s death 2014.
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