Knowing they were being live streamed, a group of New York City police officers displayed surprising restraint against three men who were drunkenly taunting them on a beach boardwalk in Queens Sunday.
That is, until one of the cops pounced on one of the men, placing him in a chokehold that has long been banned by the department and was also made illegal at the state level last week.
The man, Ricky Bellevue, ended up losing consciousness. The cop, David Afanador, was placed on unpaid suspension after the initial video went viral. He has a long history of multiple lawsuits and complaints against him including a felony arrest in 2014.
“Stop choking him, bro!” one of the other men yelled as Afanador laid his body weight on top of Bellevue, keeping his arm wrapped tightly around his neck.
“He’s out! He’s out!” the other man says in reference to Bellevue losing consciousness.
Two other cops got Afanador to loosen his hold by tapping him on his back and shoulder. Bellevue regains consciousness as the cops lift him to his feet but he appears groggy.
“Why is he the only one getting arrested,” asked a black woman who apparently knew the man.
And it is a good question considering Bellevue was the only black man among the three who were arrested, even though all three appeared drunk and disorderly. The other two men were white but all three took part in taunting them with insults, according to the body camera footage released by the NYPD.
Afanador told the woman that the only reason they arrested Bellevue was because he made them fear for their safety.
“He grabbed something and squared off and was going to hit my officer,” Afanador told the woman.
The video shows he did take something from a garbage can, perhaps a plastic water bottle but it is not very clear in the video, and asks the cops if they are scared.
But the video also shows Afanador was familiar with Bellevue who has a history of mental illness. And Afanador should be familiar to internal affairs considering the number of times he’s been investigated over the years.
In 2014, Afanador was charged with felony-level assault, criminal possession of a weapon and official misconduct when he was caught on surveillance video striking a teenager in the mouth with his gun over some weed. The video shows another cop, Tyrane Isacc, first approaching the teen on a sidewalk, then punching him in the face, even though the teen was showing no aggression.
Isacc was charged with misdemeanor assault and misconduct. New York Judge Danny Chun acquitted them both in 2016. Chun has a long history of being soft on cops as we reported earlier this year. Afanador has also been named as a defendant in several lawsuits against the NYPD. The teen, Kaheem Tribble, ended up pleading guilty to disorderly conduct after the marijuana charge was dismissed.
But ever since nationwide protests erupted in cities across the country in the wake of the George Floyd murder at the hands of Minneapolis police, police departments are suddenly discipling officers for their actions.
Police say they were responding to a call of a man creating a disturbance, only to show up and find three men creating a disturbance. In the video, the men kept complaining about how the cops had placed their hands on them earlier but the NYPD did not release the initial interaction with the men.
According to the New York Times:
“I’m just lost for words,” said Councilman Donovan Richards, who represents part of the Rockaways. “We just went through George Floyd. We see these incidents time and time again. When is it going to end?”
He called for the officers involved in the arrest to be held accountable.
“Why did it escalate to that level?” he asked. “We talk about de-escalation. Could this have been de-escalated? We talk about training, but obviously the training ain’t working.”
Mr. Bellevue’s twin brother, Ashley Bellevue, said in an interview that Ricky Bellevue had been living with him at his Far Rockaway apartment until recently. His brother had been working as a store stock clerk and was enrolled in a drug treatment program but lost his job because of the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
Ashley Bellevue’s girlfriend, Monique Matos, said the drug treatment program went remote in March as the state tried to contain the coronavirus. Ricky Bellevue’s daily visits were replaced with twice-weekly phone calls with counselors. But he also began smoking and drinking with people from the neighborhood, she said.
“After the program stopped, he started going left,” she said.
Bellevue was charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest. The Queens District Attorney has already dismissed the charges.
Above is a shortened edited video containing footage from police body cameras as well as from the camera one of the three men were holding. Below is the video of Afanador and Isaac attacking the teen in 2014, leading to their arrest. Click here to watch the entire 30-minute body camera video released by the NYPD.