NYPD officer suspended after appearing to use banned choke hold

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the officer involved had been suspended - Reuters
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the officer involved had been suspended - Reuters

A New York police officer has been suspended after appearing to restrain a man in a choke hold, the week after the tactic was banned by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Footage from police body cameras and from bystanders shows the confrontation at Rockaway Beach on Sunday.

Two white men are seen jeering at and circling a group of officers, who stand impassively.

A black man, who gave his name as Ricky Bellevue, 35, then approaches and is swiftly tackled to the ground and handcuffed. An officer appears to hold him in a choke hold.

Dermot Shea, commissioner of NYPD, said the officer involved had been suspended.

"Accountability in policing is essential," he said.  "After a swift investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau, a police officer involved in a disturbing apparent choke hold incident in Queens has been suspended without pay.

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"While a full investigation is still underway, there is no question in my mind that this immediate action is necessary.

"We are committed to transparency as this process continues."

Mr Ricky Bellevue is helped to his feet by the officers, and taken to await an ambulance. He tells them that he is asthmatic and bipolar.

A black woman watching confronts the police, yelling that they deliberately targeted the black man while leaving the two white men alone.

"They are all obviously intoxicated," an officer explains to her, in body camera footage released by the NYPD.

"We know he has a mental history, past. We know he's bipolar. They were all talking all types of crazy stuff to us, we did nothing, I don't care - anybody can say whatever they want to us.

"What changed everything is when he grabbed something and squared up and was going to hit my officer, who's standing over there. That's when everything changed.

"The minute I saw him flex on him, that's when he goes down. Because we don't get hurt and we're not going to leave somebody violent out here who might do that to one of you, or another innocent person.

"And that's why he's in cuffs, and why he's going to the hospital, because we know he's ill."

The incident was greeted with anger on social media, coming eight days after Mr Cuomo banned the choke hold - a move that killed Eric Garner on Staten Island in 2014.

It also comes after George Floyd was choked to death by a white policeman who knelt on his neck in Minneapolis on May 25.