A New York City police officer was placed on desk duty this weekend after a viral video appeared to show him in plainclothes, threatening a man with a stun gun before slapping and punching him as bystanders screamed in protest.
“He didn’t even do nothing!” someone can be heard yelling off-camera in the two-minute video, which has been shared more than 5,000 times on Facebook since it was recorded in the city’s Lower East Side on Saturday.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said late Sunday that he had seen the footage, “was really disturbed by it,” and found the officer’s behavior “simply not acceptable.” He added that the city would launch an investigation.
In the meantime, the officer in the video, Francisco Garcia, has been stripped of his badge and gun.
The police department said its officers were trying to enforce the city’s social distancing rules among two separate people, one of whom had a “bag of alleged marijuana,” when 33-year-old Donni Wright, “took a fighting stance,” said Detective Denise Moroney, a spokesperson for the NYPD.
Wright wasn’t visible in the video when he was first confronted by Garcia, and only came into view once Garcia tackled him, slapping him across the face and grabbing him by the wrist before dragging him onto the sidewalk.
Garcia, who was not wearing the sort of face covering that’s currently mandated by the state, was assisting in the arrest of the two people and trying to disperse a nearby crowd when he noticed Wright and yelled at him to “get the fuck back.” He can then be heard in the video shouting “don’t flex” at the 33-year-old. Then he grabbed him.
The two individuals Garcia confronted prior to Wright were arrested on charges including disorderly conduct, criminal possession of a weapon, resisting arrest, and marijuana possession, according to Moroney. Wright was arrested on myriad charges including menacing, resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration, disorderly conduct, and assault on a police officer.
A Manhattan District Attorney spokesperson told the Associated Press those charges are deferred pending further investigation. “I’ve contacted NYPD. We have demanded an investigation for excessive force,” Councilwoman Carlina Rivera said in a tweet Sunday morning. “Regardless of what transpired before the video, what is the justification for the rage? Where's the professionalism and de-escalation tactics we should expect? We will hold these officers accountable.”
The weekend incident also underscored some of the existing tensions between the city’s traditionally over-policed communities, which are currently seeing the bulk of confirmed coronavirus cases, and the wealthier neighborhoods where people are still lounging in parks without apparent consequences. Officers were even handing out masks just blocks away from the incident in East River Park, as well as Central Park over the weekend.