A New York police officer who allegedly used an illegal choke while making an arrest earlier this week was arrested and charged with second-degree choke, the Queen’s district attorney announced Thursday.
Officer David Afanador, who was suspended after the video of the incident appeared on social media, will also face one count of attempted first-degree strangulation. He is expected to be tried at the Queens Criminal Court on Thursday afternoon.
A conviction on the charges could carry a maximum prison sentence of seven years.
The charges came just weeks after the New York Governor and the New York City Council pushed through policies to criminalize the use of strangleholds by police officers.
Governor Andrew CuomoAndrew Cuomo Night Health Care: Texas, Florida and Arizona See More Record Cases | Trump ‘does not withdraw support’ from COVID-19 test sites | NY, NJ, CT impose quarantine on certain travelers Ken Burns: ‘Confederate monuments have to go’ The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Facebook – New York Marathon canceled MORE (D) On June 12, he signed a bill that makes it a crime when officers use a choke or similar restraint that results in injury or death.
“The ink in the pen that Cuomo used to sign this legislation was barely dry before this officer allegedly employed the tactic that the new law was designed to ban,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a statement. “Police officers are charged with serving and protecting, and the conduct alleged here cannot be tolerated.”
“This police officer is now a defendant and is accused of using a choke, a maneuver that we know has been lethal,” he added. “This office has zero tolerance for police misconduct.”
AP: New York Police Officer David Afanador was arrested today for using an illegal choke on Ricky Bellevue, a black man, last weekend on the Rockaway Beach boardwalk.
Afanador has faced charges before. He once hit a teenager with his gun and broke his teeth. Pic.twitter.com/KHGmx0WVMa
– Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) June 25, 2020
New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea announced the suspension of Afanador on Sunday, just hours after the video showed him placing a black man in a choke for about 10 seconds during an arrest on the Rockaway Beach boardwalk. in Queens.
The arrest began after police responded to complaints that a man was yelling at people in the area that morning. Camera images of the officers’ bodies showed a group of three individuals taunting them after they arrived on the scene. At one point, Ricky Bellevue, 35, asked officers if they were afraid, before reaching into a trash can.
The officers responded by grabbing Bellevue and knocking him to the ground. Cell phone video showed three officers on top of Bellevue when Afanador pressed his forearm against Bellevue’s neck. The images seemed to indicate that Bellevue lost consciousness after the alleged strangulation was performed.
Bellevue was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, obstructing the government administration and resisting arrest. The Queen’s district attorney’s office said it would not prosecute Bellevue, The New York Times reported.
“Even in the most difficult circumstances, this maneuver, this type of action, is exactly the type of police conduct that the New York police have prohibited and our state Legislature criminalized,” Katz said.
Shea said Sunday that the New York police were conducting a full investigation into Afanador’s conduct. He described the maneuver seen in the film as a “disturbing apparent obstruction.”
Police use of excessive force has gained increasing scrutiny following George Floyd’s May 25 death while in Minneapolis police custody. Floyd, 46, died after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes when Floyd said, “I can’t breathe.”
New York Police banned officers from using the choke in 1993, though officers have still used them over the years. During a 2014 arrest, a police officer smothered Eric Garner, a black man who died after repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.”
Daniel Pantaleo, the officer involved in that incident, was fired after a 2019 department trial found he was using unauthorized retention.
The legislation Cuomo signed into law was called the “Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act”. In addition to state policy, the New York City Council passed a law earlier this month that makes it a misdemeanor for officers to use a choke, regardless of whether it causes injury or death, according to NBC New York.