A New York police officer was suspended without payment on Sunday after putting his arm around a man’s neck, which the police commissioner described as an “obvious stranglehold.” The department’s move to suspend the officer was breathtaking in its swiftness and occurred just hours after the morning confrontation on a boardwalk in the Rockaway section of Queens.
A video recorded by one of the men involved showed a group of officers attacking a black man. One of them put his arm around his neck when he was lying face down on the promenade.
In the video, someone shouts: “Stop choking him, brother!”
“The official who intervened to stop his colleague did just the right thing,” tweeted Bill de Blasio on Sunday evening. “I recommend him. That’s what we have to see from all of our officers.”
It was unclear whether the man under attack suffered more than superficial injuries. He stood up on his own after getting up from the floor and refused to be examined by medical professionals after the incident.
“Accountability in policing is essential. After a rapid investigation by the Home Office, a policeman involved in an apparently disturbing Chokehold incident in Queens was suspended without pay,” police commissioner Dermot Shea said in a statement on Sunday evening. “While a full investigation is ongoing, there is no question in my mind that this immediate action is necessary.”
The police released a video using a body camera, which shows that at least 11 minutes before the arrest, three men went up and down, sometimes yelling at the officers and hurling racist insults at them, while the officers begged them to go away and enjoy the beach .
Then, at some point, the officers stormed one of the most aggressive and mocked men by saying, “Are you afraid?” The following fight lasted about 30 seconds.
He was subsequently captured in an official body camera video, explaining to a woman who appeared at the scene of the crime that she was a relative of the man who was handcuffed and mentally ill.
“They all talked to us about all kinds of crazy things and we didn’t do anything,” he said. “What changed everything is when he grabbed something and straightened up and wanted to hit my officer.”
CBS New York reports that the man was identified as Ricky Bellevue by his lawyer Lori Zeno. Zeno said it was clear that the officer was strangling.
“He’s an idiot. That’s my reaction. He’s an idiot. And he’s a bad cop and he has to go. He needs to be fired. And not just fired, he needs to be prosecuted,” Zeno said.
Bellevue’s lawyer said he was taken to St. John’s Hospital, where he was treated for a head injury and released. She also said that he has been subjected to two crimes because he opposes the arrest and disability of the state judiciary, and is a violation of disorderly behavior.
The NYPD has long banned chokeholds. Their use has been particularly problematic since Eric Garner’s death in 2014 after an official put him in a stranglehold when he tried to arrest him.
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed a comprehensive package of police accountability measures, including a ban on chokeholds following protests against George Floyd’s murder.
De Blasio said in his tweet that police discipline was the fastest he has ever seen.
“It has to be that way,” he said.