Things That Matter

An NYPD Officer Is Seen Choking A Black Man Just Days After Officials Banned The Use Of Chokeholds

Even though police brutality and the way officers systemically abuse Black Americans is finally gaining mainstream attention, officers continue to put Black lives at risk.

As the country struggles to figure out ways to move forward when it comes to addressing policing of Black communities – attacks on those communities continue. Over the weekend, a Black man in New York was attacked by an NYPD officer in what the police commissioner is calling an “apparent chokehold” – even though chokeholds have long been banned by the department.

A viral video shows an NYPD officer using a chokehold on a Black man as people shout at him to stop.

An NYPD officer has been suspended without pay after a video of him allegedly attacking a man in what the police commissioner has called an “apparent chokehold.”

A video shot by one of the man’s friends – who he was hanging out with – showed a group of NYPD officers tackling a black man, with one of them putting his arm around his neck as he lay face-down on the boardwalk. Several bystanders start to yell, “Stop choking him, bro!” But only after another officer tugs at the cop’s shirt – a move that has received praise from officials for some reason.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the man who was attacked by police suffered any serious injuries – but he was able to get up on his own after the cop got off of him.

The officer, who was identified by the New York Daily News and other local media outlets as David Afanador, was one of several seen in the video attempting to detain 35-year-old Ricky Bellevue, who has a history of mental illness, according to family members.

It’s still not exactly clear what provoked the officer to attack the man.

Credit: David Dee Delgado / Getty Images

Although the NYPD has already released body camera footage that shows at least 11 minutes of the interaction, it’s not exactly clear what happened between officers and Bellevue. In the police body cam video, you can see three men pacing back and forth and they are – at times – shouting at the officers. But at one point, the officers rushed the Black man and the ensuing struggle lasts for about 30 seconds.

In the aftermath, one officer’s body camera video captured him explaining the situation to a woman who turned up at the scene and said she was a relative of the man who had been handcuffed, and that he was mentally ill.

“They were all talking all types of crazy stuff to us and we did nothing,” he said. “What changed everything is when he grabbed something and squared up and was going to hit my officer.”

Some officials have spoken out in praise of officers who ‘intervened’ to stop the chokehold.

Even though the police who intervened was just doing what he should be doing, officials are praising him for his actions.

“The officer who intervened to stop his colleague did exactly the right thing,” Bill de Blasio tweeted Sunday night. “I commend him. That is what we need to see from all our officers.”

The Police Commissioner, Dermot Shea, said in a statement that “a full investigation is still underway, but there is no question in my mind that this immediate action is necessary.”

Meanwhile, New York City Mayor De Blasio tweeted: “This is the fastest I have ever seen the NYPD act to discipline an officer….This is how it needs to be.”

Although chokeholds have long been banned by the NYPD, they’re still commonly used.

Credit: David Dee Delgado / Getty Images

Although the NYPD has long had an official policy against chokeholds, they’ve still been commonly used. Their use has been especially controversial in the wake of the 2014 death of Eric Gardner, after an officer put him in a chokehold while trying to arrest him.

Meanwhile, at the city and state level – officials are trying to implement legal consequences for officers who continue to use chokeholds. New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed into law a sweeping package of police accountability measures including a ban on chokeholds following protests over George Floyd’s killing.

The New York City Council just passed a law last week making it a criminal misdemeanor for an officer to use a chokehold during an arrest, regardless of the level of injury that chokehold may have inflicted. And a new state law named for Eric Garner, deemed the technique a felony offense if the officer gravely injured or killed a person in the course of using it. While chokeholds have long been banned in the city, the new measures add layers of potential punishment for rule-breaking cops. 

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