NYPD suspends officer after 'apparent chokehold' incident

NYPD suspends officer after 'apparent chokehold' incident

The New York Police Department on Sunday announced that an officer has been suspended without pay after video surfaced showing him use what Police Commissioner Dermot Shea called an "apparent chokehold." 

“Accountability in policing is essential,” Shea said in a statement. “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," he added. "We are committed to transparency as this process continues.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The New York City Council just days earlier passed a bill that bars police officers from using chokeholds, in a move that followed nationwide protests following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Shea handed out the suspension just hours after the arrest of a Black man at the Rockaway boardwalk in Queens, The New York Times noted. Police said before the arrest that they had received complaints about a man yelling at people in the area that morning. 

Body camera footage released by the New York police showed three individuals arguing with the officers for about 10 minutes. Ricky Bellevue, 35, then reportedly reached his hand into a trash can before asking if the officers were scared. Officers responded by grabbing Bellevue and tackling him to the ground. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Cellphone video shared on Twitter appeared to show three officers on top of Bellevue and one pushing his forearm into his neck. A man in the background can be heard repeatedly yelling, "stop choking him."

After an officer stopped performing an apparent chokehold, the person recording the video walked closer to Bellevue, who appeared to have lost consciousness. Lori Zeno, the executive director of Queens Defenders, who is representing Bellevue, told The Times that Bellevue did lose consciousness. 

Bellevue was arrested on allegations of disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest. He was being treated at a hospital in Queens on Sunday night, Zeno added. 

Excessive use of force by police has gained increased scrutiny in the weeks following the death of Floyd, who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd said, "I can't breathe."

The NYPD banned the use of chokeholds in 1993. But the New York City Council and the state's governor moved this month to impose criminal penalties for officers found to have used one.

Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoReopening schools seen as vital step in pandemic recovery Chicago mayor issues emergency travel advisory for those coming from states with coronavirus surges Chamber of Commerce, trade groups call for national standard on requiring masks MORE (D) signed legislation on June 12 creating criminal penalties for police officers who use a chokehold or a similar restraint causing injury or death.

The bill was named after Eric Garner, a Black man who died in New York police custody in 2014. Video captured Garner repeatedly saying "I can't breathe" while an officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest.

In addition to the governor, the New York City Council passed a slate of police reforms last week. The city legislation on chokeholds would make it a misdemeanor for an officer to perform the act, regardless of whether it caused serious injury or death, NBC New York reported.