The NYPD on Sunday quickly suspended an officer caught on cellphone video using a chokehold on a Black man suspected of harassing beachgoers.
“Accountability in policing is essential,” Commissioner Dermot Shea tweeted. “After a swift investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau, a police officer involved in a disturbing apparent chokehold incident in Queens has been suspended without pay. ... While a full investigation is still underway, there is no question in my mind that this immediate action is necessary.”
The man seen in the video, Ricky Bellevue, lost consciousness in the chokehold, and was treated at a hospital for a bloody scalp and swollen wrists, his lawyer Lori Zeno told The New York Times.
The bystander video shows officers attempting to restrain Bellevue on the boardwalk at Rockaway Beach in Queens on Sunday morning. One cop, identified by Zeno as David Afanador, appears to coil his arm around Bellevue’s neck as he lay face-first on the ground. Observers yell for the cop to let go. A fellow officer taps the cop and pulls on his shirt, prompting him to release his grip. A man can be heard saying of Bellevue, “He’s out.”
“The officer who intervened to stop his colleague did exactly the right thing,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Sunday night. “I commend him. That is what we need to see from all our officers.”
The video comes amid national outrage sparked by the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. Dozens of protesters gathered Sunday afternoon outside of the 100th Precinct to protest the alleged Queens brutality, NBC New York reported.
Just days earlier, the New York City Council passed a law making police chokeholds a crime, NY1 noted. In 2014, Eric Garner died after an NYPD officer placed him in a chokehold for selling loose cigarettes.
Afanador and other officers on Sunday were dispatched to investigate reports that three men were harassing beachgoers and throwing objects at them, NBC New York reported.
Police bodycam footage shows three men taunting the officers and filming them. Bellevue, who relatives say has a history of mental illness (which appears known to the cops in the video), approaches the officers with what appeared to be something behind his back.
Officers then tried to subdue Bellevue. The cellphone video shows one officer press his forearm into Bellevue’s neck for about 10 seconds as bystanders shout.
Bellevue was charged with suspicion of disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest, according to The New York Times.