The New York Police Department has suspended an officer without pay after a video emerged in which he is seen using the banned chokehold technique in the arrest of a black man in Queens.
The disturbing encounter comes days after the city council passed a sweeping set of reforms that makes the use of chokeholds criminal offenses.
Four officers could be seen in the video of the incident that occurred Sunday, trying to arrest and detain 35-year-old Ricky Bellevue. The video then showed one of the officers wrapping his arms around Bellevue’s neck for 10 seconds while people could be heard yelling: “He’s choking him! Let go.”
The suspended officer has been named as David Afanador. Citing Lori Zeno, the executive director of Queens Defenders, The New York Times reports that the shield number of the officer in the video matched Afanador’s name in a public database of federal lawsuits against the police that is maintained by the Legal Aid Society.
In a tweet Sunday evening, Commissioner Dermot F. Shea announced that after rapid probe the officer involved in the disturbing apparent chokehold incident in Queens had been suspended without pay.
“While a full investigation is still underway, there is no question in my mind that this immediate action is necessary,” Shea said. “We are committed to transparency as this process continues.”
Zeno told the Times that Bellevue who lost consciousness during the arrest and appeared lifeless in the video was being taken into custody on a suspicion of disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest.
“He was on such a hard chokehold that he couldn’t speak to say he couldn’t breathe,” she said.
In more than 30 minutes of body camera footage released by the police from the incident, Bellevue, accompanied by two other men, appear to be taunting the police for about 10 minutes while the officers “remain calm and even laugh”, The Times reports.
Bellevue then reaches into a trash can and appears to be holding something. He asked twice if the officers were scared before the officer wearing the camera rushes in to grab him.
Afanador whose shield number matches the officer in the video could then be heard in the body camera footage telling another person that Bellevue and the other two men appear to be intoxicated.
According to the Times, authorities knew Bellevue had been given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
Afanador then said in the footage Bellevue is acting as if he was going to hit another officer with something.“The minute I saw him flex on him, that’s when he goes down because we don’t get hurt and we’re not going to leave somebody violent out here who might do that to one of you or another innocent person,” Afanador said. “That’s why he’s in cuffs, and that’s why he’s going to the hospital because we know he’s ill.”
In 2014 Afanador was charged with assault in 2014 after prosecutors said that he and another officer attacked a 16-year-old boy whom they saw with a bag of marijuana.