Queens, NY – The New York Police Department (NYPD) officer who appeared to have his arm on the neck of a suspect during an arrest on a boardwalk in Rockaway Beach on Sunday has been charged with attempted strangulation and second-degree strangulation.
The police department announced that 39-year-old NYPD Officer David Afanador had been arrested and charged on Thursday morning, CNN reported.
The incident occurred at about 8:45 a.m. on June 21 near Beach 113th Street and Ocean Promenade in Rockaway Beach, the New York Daily News reported.
Police sources told the New York Daily News that officers from NYPD’s 100th Precinct responded to a call for a mentally disturbed person on the boardwalk.
Bodycam video shows the suspect – later identified by his attorney as Ricky Bellevue – and two other two other men taunting officers for several minutes, the New York Daily News reported.
In the video, the officers laugh it off and suggest they go and have a nice day on the beach.
“Listen, they told y’all to go and go enjoy the beach, right? Go have a good day?” one of the officers suggested.
“He can’t tell me where to go!” one of the men screamed at the officer.
“But you can just go enjoy yourself,” the officer replied in the video.
“F–k off,” Bellevue told the officer as he entered the video frame.
Then Bellevue and the other man proceeded to hurl a couple of minutes of obscene and nonsensical insults at the police officers.
The video showed Bellevue stepped up into the officer’s face more than once threatening him but the officer remained calm.
“Don’t you touch me, ni–a, or touch any of my boys and you’re dead,” Bellevue told the officers in a menacing tone and then lifted his hand to making a shooting gesture at them.
At that point, his friend intervened and tried to tell Bellevue that they shouldn’t threaten the police.
He appeared to distance himself from Bellevue as that man continued to threaten officers from a greater distance.
“That’s one thing I don’t do,” the man said in the video.
Multiple times, the three men behaved aggressively toward the officers, but the officers mostly didn’t react.
In the bodycam NYPD Officer David Afanador repeatedly asked a shirtless, mask-less man filming him from just a couple of feet away to “back up,” and gave him a slight push back when the man again got in his face.
“Confederate-flag-wearing motherf—-er son, what’s your name?… Go ahead, say something stupid. Say something stupid,” the man filming taunted the officer.
Moments later, Bellevue approached the officers again in an aggressive stance.
“You scared, you scared?” Bellevue asked the cops in the video.
The friend tried to intervene again but that’s when Officer Afanador grabbed Bellevue and officers put the menacing man on the ground.
Bodycam video showed four officers holding Bellevue down as one applied handcuffs.
In the video, Officer Afanador appears to have his arms on or around Bellevue’s neck.
Bodycam video showed the suspect’s friend started screaming at the officers.
“Y’all stop choking him, bro,” one friend yelled. “Yo! Stop choking him! Yo, he’s choking him, let him go, bro. Let him go!”
The officers stood Bellevue up and his friend continued to yell at the officers that they were choking him even after the suspect was being walked away to the police car, the video showed.
Bellevue initially declined medical attention at the scene, the New York Daily News reported.
“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,” Officer Afanador told a woman at the scene. “What changed everything is when he grabbed something and squared off, and was gonna hit my officer who’s standing over there.”
“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,” the officer further explained.
Bellevue’s twin brother, Ashley, told police that his brother is bipolar and his outpatient treatment program was shut down because of coronavirus, the New York Daily News reported.
The suspect was charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration, and resisting arrest, according to his attorney, Lori Zeno of Queens Defenders.
Zeno said Bellevue was recovering from his arrest at Jamaica Hospital, the New York Daily News reported.
“I want the officer who put him in a chokehold to be in the cell next to him,” she said. “This guy should be charged criminally, and fired.”
Cell phone video of the arrest went quickly viral and police officials released the bodycam video just hours after the incident.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea announced Sunday evening that he had suspended Officer Afanador without pay pending a full investigation into the incident, the New York Daily News reported.
“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,” Commissioner Shea tweeted.
“While a full investigation is still underway, there is no question in my mind that this immediate action is necessary. We are committed to transparency as this process continues,” he added.
The New York Daily News reported that it wasn’t the first time Officer Afanador has faced accusations of excessive use-of-force against a suspect.
When he was assigned to the 77th Precinct’s anti-crime unit in 2014, he was accused of pistol-whipping a 16-year-old suspect and cracking the suspect’s teeth.
Despite a video of the violent arrest, the judge found Officer Afanador and his partner not guilty after the defendant was caught lying on the stand, the New York Daily News reported.
The city settled a civil lawsuit by the boy’s family for $83,250 in 2016.