News

NYPD officer charged with strangulation after putting man in apparent chokehold

A New York City police officer seen on video putting a man in an apparent chokehold on a Queens boardwalk was arrested and charged Thursday.

Officer David Afanador, who was suspended without pay following Sunday’s incident with Ricky Bellevue, faces charges of strangulation and attempted strangulation, the New York City Police Department said.

The NYPD and the city’s Police Benevolent Association, which represents officers, did not immediately return requests for comment on Thursday.

Police were called to the boardwalk at Rockaway Beach on Sunday morning for a report that a man was harassing people and throwing objects at them.

In body-camera video released by police, several officers are seen talking to Bellevue, who is Black, and two other men. During the incident, the men appear to get agitated and curse at the officers. One of the men films the encounter on his cellphone.

The police ask the men to leave. “Yo, what are you guys doing? Listen, they told y’all to go enjoy the beach and go have a good day,” an officer is heard saying. One of the men in the group responds: “He can’t tell me where to go.”

Bellevue is heard on the video warning the officers not to touch them.

The encounter lasts for more than 10 minutes and at one point the group begins to leave before they turn back and approach the officers. The video shows Bellevue appearing to pick something up and ask the officers if they are “scared.”

Seconds later, he is taken down to the ground. Several officers are seen in the video restraining Bellevue on his stomach as a bystander shouts at them to “stop choking him.” Bellevue is later placed in handcuffs.

The encounter sparked protests outside of a police precinct in Queens. In a June 21 statement on Twitter, police Commissioner Dermot Shea said Afanador used a “disturbing apparent chokehold” during the incident.

The NYPD banned chokeholds in 1993.

The department said in a tweet that its Internal Affairs Bureau was conducting a use-of-force investigation.

A spokesperson for the public defender representing Bellevue said that he was hospitalized following the incident. Attorney Lori Zeno said Afanador should be fired and prosecuted.

“It is important that we keep holding police officers accountable for their actions,” Zeno said in a statement. “The officer involved here used a chokehold to strangle my client until he was unconscious, because according to the police officer, he was being disorderly.”

“He is the one who committed a crime in this circumstance,” the lawyer continued. “We will not stop until the people of Far Rockaway can feel safe as they travel through their own neighborhood. They should not fear the very people who are sworn to protect them.”

In addition to the NYPD’s chokehold ban, the City Council last week passed an anti-chokehold law to criminalize the use of the maneuver.

The measure adds to a state law signed this month that requires that officers be criminally charged if a chokehold results in injury or death.

That bill was named for Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died in July 2014 after Officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in a chokehold while Garner repeatedly said he could not breathe.

Officer Afanador, 39, has been sued at least four times. He also faced criminal charges in 2014 after he was accused of pistol-whipping a teenage suspect and breaking two of his teeth during a marijuana bust.

A video showed Afanador using his gun to hit a 16-year-old boy until the teen dropped to the ground. Afanador was found not guilty in that case.