Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.
New York City police officers swarmed an unarmed black teenager with their guns drawn inside a subway car in Brooklyn Friday after he allegedly jumped a turnstile without paying to flee from police.
Adrian Napier, 19, calmly remained seated with his hands raised as police officers prepared to rush into the 4-line car and arrest him, according to cell phone videos taken by people there. Some officers, waiting on the platform for the train to stop, already had their guns drawn. As soon as the car’s doors opened, at least 10 cops entered — some with their guns still drawn — and some tackled Napier to the floor of the 4 train because they were worried he might’ve been armed.
Many passengers panicked and scattered on the subway car when they saw police with their guns drawn. Others fled the subway car once the doors opened outright. NYPD officers have been involved in at least 11 fatal shootings so far this year.
The New York City Police Department said in a statement to NBC 4 New York that officers were responding to “an alert for a male with a gun,” based on witness reports around rush hour Friday. Officers also told the news station that when they approached Napier a few moments after the witness statements, he allegedly jumped a turnstile and boarded a southbound train. He was ultimately charged with theft of service, aka fare evasion.
The video of Napier’s arrest, which went viral, inflamed condemnation of the city’s initiative to combat fare evasion, which has resulted in plans to hire 500 more transit officers solely to police the city’s subway stations. The officers won’t be considered part of the New York Police Department, which means they’re not required to wear body cameras, according to Gothamist.
“This man didn’t pay his subway fare — but is tackled by at least ten officers in a crowded station,” Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro wrote on Twitter Sunday. “Officers should be working to deescalate —not putting dozens of lives at risk over $2.75.”
Criminal justice advocates have also said arrests for fare evasion unfairly target people of color, or punish people for being too poor to afford a subway ride. In June, video of another man’s arrest went viral when police pinned him down at a Queens subway station over fare evasion.
But the city has said that arrests for evading subway fares are necessary because turnstile-jumping will cost the city $260 million this year alone, according to CBS New York. The New York City Police Department did not immediately respond to a VICE News request for comment.
Cover image: Screenshot via passenger video