June 22, 2020 By Allie Griffin
A NYPD officer has been suspended after placing an African-American man in an apparent chokehold on the Rockaway boardwalk Sunday.
The officer from the 100th Precinct was suspended without pay for allegedly using the banned practice when arresting the man at 8:45 a.m. near Beach 113th Street and Ocean Promenade in Rockaway Beach.
The encounter was caught on video — both by a member of the public and police body cam footage. The NYPD released the footage last night and said that its Internal Affairs Bureau is actively investigating the force used.
“This matter is taken extremely seriously and updates will be shared with the public as the investigation unfolds,” the department wrote in a statement.
The video shows three men — one black and two light-skinned — talking to several police officers, often taunting and insulting the officers.
After several minutes, the African-American man appears to pick up something and one officer moves in on him.
The body cam footage is partially blocked in the scuffle, but shows the officer throwing the man to the ground and cuffing him.
Footage from a bystander, however, shows four police officers restraining the man who is face down on the floor of the boardwalk. One officer has his arm wrapped around the man’s neck.
One of the other two men taunting the police yells, “Yo, stop choking him, bro. Stop choking him.”
The bystander filming also tells the officer to stop choking the man.
“Officer, look at this. He’s out,” he says on camera.
Another officer taps his colleague who is apparently choking the man on the back and he releases his arm from around the man’s neck.
The officer then brings the man back to his feet and walks him to a police vehicle.
A female bystander can then be heard asking the officers why the black man is the only one being arrested. An officer replies that he tried to throw a can at them.
The officer later tells the female witness that the man has a history and mental health issues and is being brought to the hospital for a psych evaluation.
The man says he is bipolar multiple times, but also disputes that he is bipolar during the 35-minute body cam video.
The footage ends with the African-American man being placed into an ambulance.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea called the use of an apparent chokehold by one of his officers “disturbing” in a statement.
“Accountability in policing is essential,” Shea said.
“While a full investigation is still underway, there is no question in my mind that this immediate action is necessary,” he added, noting the officer has been suspended without pay.
Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the NYPD’s speedy investigation and discipline.
“Today was the fastest I have EVER seen the NYPD act to discipline an officer,” he Tweeted.
Today was the fastest I have EVER seen the NYPD act to discipline an officer. Within hours:
Body camera footage released
Discipline process initiated
This is how it needs to be. https://t.co/Ma7f6nd7HL
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) June 22, 2020
Local lawmakers, Congressman Gregory Meeks and Council Member Donovan Richards, called the officer’s use of force during the arrest “life threatening.”
“It is clear to us, having watched both the cellphone video posted online and the NYPD’s subsequently released body camera footage, the manner in which the man was being restrained was excessive and life threatening,” they wrote in a statement.
“The horrifying encounter captures exactly the behavior that we have marched into streets these recent weeks to reform.”
The lawmakers said the man could have been killed.
“Though this man did not die during the encounter, he very well could have died as a result of the officer restricting his airflow,” they wrote. “Law enforcement does not have the right to deny someone the ability to breathe.”
New Yorkers have continued to protest police brutality and bias following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The City Council passed a bill last week making police use of a chokehold a misdemeanor. The bill is currently awaiting de Blasio’s signature.
The police practice of using chokeholds was brought into the public light in July 2014 when an officer used a chokehold to arrest Eric Garner on Staten Island. Garner cried out more than 10 times “I can’t breather” and died after his airway was restricted.