NYPD officer suspended, body cam footage released within hours after video shows chokehold on suspect

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio applauded the swift actions by the NYPD to suspend an officer for using an apparent chokehold, saying this “is how it needs to be.”

The New York Police Department suspended an officer Sunday after video was released showing him using a banned chokehold move while making an arrest on a Queens boardwalk. City Council candidate Anthony Beckford shared the video on social media and accused the officer of  “performing an Illegal modern day lynching chokehold on a Black Man until he was unconscious.”

**WARNING : GRAPHIC LANGUAGE, CONTENT**

“I demand his immediate firing & criminal charges for breaking the city & state ban,” Beckford wrote, adding the hashtag “#DefundThePolice.”

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea did not name David Afanador, the officer involved, in a statement he made on the incident, which unfolded after the suspect, identified by his attorney as Ricky Bellevue, taunted police and was taken down after approaching them.

“Accountability in policing is essential. 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,” Shea said.

“While a full investigation is still underway, there is no question in my mind that this immediate action is necessary,” he added. “We are committed to transparency as this process continues.”

“Today was the fastest I have EVER seen the NYPD act to discipline an officer.” de Blasio tweeted later Sunday. “This is how it needs to be.”

Footage from Afanador’s body camera showed three men hurling insults and taunting police officers for about 10 minutes before Bellevue approached them with an unidentified object, saying “You scared, you scared?” Police tackled him to the ground and bystanders could be heard in the video yelling, “Yo, he’s choking ‘em, let ‘em go!”

One of the officers could be seen with his arm around Bellevue’s neck until another appeared to signal for him to let go.

“Yo, he’s out, he’s out, he’s out!” another bystander yelled as the officer released his arm.

“They were all talking all types of crazy stuff to us. We did nothing. I don’t care. Anybody can say whatever they want to us,” Afanador explained to a woman after the incident, as seen in his body-cam footage, according to the New York Daily News.

“What changed everything is when he grabbed something and squared off, and was gonna hit my officer who’s standing over there,” he added. “That’s when everything changed. The minute I saw him flex on him, that’s when he goes down, cause we don’t get hurt and we’re not gonna leave somebody violent out here who might do that to one of you or another innocent person.”

“I want the officer who put him in a chokehold to be in the cell next to him,” Bellevue’s attorney, Lori Zeno, told the Daily News. “This guy should be charged criminally, and fired.”

The suspect, who was reportedly recovering at Jamaica Hospital, was facing charges of disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest charges, according to Zeno.

His twin brother told the newspaper that the officers “could’ve treated him a little more fairly” and reportedly told the police the suspect, who later told officers he is bipolar, had been receiving outpatient treatment prior to the coronavirus shutdowns.

“Those cops could have really hurt my brother. He couldn’t breathe. They could’ve killed him,” Ashley Bellevue said. “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?

The city’s Democrat mayor called the video “very concerning,” and later wrote, “the officer who intervened to stop his colleague did exactly the right thing. I commend him. That is what we need to see from all our officers.”

Chokeholds were banned by the NYPD’s patrol guide almost 30 years ago but, following the controversial death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month, the New York City Council passed legislation last week that made the use of the move by officers a criminal offense.

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Frieda Powers

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