NYPD officer charged in swift test of state’s chokehold ban

NEW YORK (AP) - The New York City Prosecutor's Office filed a lawsuit on Thursday against a police officer who was detained on a video that stuck a black man in an allegedly prohibited stranglehold that apparently made him lose consciousness.
Official David Afanador pleaded not guilty of strangling on Thursday and tried to tighten the strangulation allegations resulting from the confrontation on a Queens boardwalk on Sunday. He was released on bail and faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.
Afanador has been charged with a recent law change that prohibits police officers from using chokeholds, district attorney Melinda Katz said, adding that her office "has no tolerance for police misconduct".
It is the second time in 15 years that the 39-year-old Afanador has been prosecuted for the alleged brutality of the police. He was acquitted in 2016 for flogging a young suspect and breaking two teeth.
Afanador's lawyer said his client was facing a verdict following protests against George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis and public pressure to hold police officers accountable for alleged misconduct. Floyd was killed a month before Afanador's arrest.
"It has become fashionable for prosecutors to arrest police officers without a full and thorough investigation," said attorney Stephen Worth. "The concept of the proper process seems to go out of the window."
The NYPD suspended Afanador without payment after a cell phone video appeared that officials attacked 35-year-old Ricky Bellevue and Afanador and put his arm around Bellevue's neck as he lay face down on the boardwalk.
Before dismantling, the prosecutor said, Bellevue seemed to be taking a can out of a trash can and asked the officers if they were afraid. Bellevue's lawyer, Lori Zeno, said the officials are aware that he has a mental illness.
"He could have been persuaded so easily," Zeno said in court after Afanador's indictment.
Body camera footage released by the police on Sunday night showed that he and two other men - one of whom was shooting the cell phone video - called insults against officers who begged them to leave for at least 11 minutes before Bellevue was attacked.
Officials were on the Rockaway Beach boardwalk and answered a call about someone yelling at people, prosecutors said.
Afanador held Bellevue in a stranglehold while other officials handcuffed him, the prosecutors said, causing him to go limp and lose consciousness. Afanador finally released Bellevue's neck when another officer pulled on his back, the prosecutors said.
Following the suspension of Afanador, police commissioner Dermot Shea said on Monday that the officers had acted with "extreme restraint" and that the men who ridicule themselves with sometimes bad language should also be sentenced.
"But at the end of this story, an officer put his hand around a person's neck and that (officer) was quickly treated and suspended," said Shea.
Rev. Kevin McCall, a Brooklyn civil rights activist, described Afanador's arrest as "a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go".
"This officer should be in prison," said McCall. "He should have been in a 4 by 4 cell, thinking about what he did, what is illegal."
Chokeholds have been banned by the New York City police for years. Andrew Cuomo, a New York Democrat, signed a measure on June 12 that banned it nationwide. Katz said in a statement that the ink from Cuomo's pen was “barely dry” before Afanador allegedly violated the new law.
The stranglehold problem has been particularly problematic since Eric Garner's death after an official put him in a stranglehold in 2014. In this case, a large jury declined to indict the officials concerned. An investigation into federal civil rights was also completed without charge.
Afanador is the second NYPD officer to be charged with brutality this month.
Police officer Vincent D'Andraia pleaded not guilty of assault and other charges on June 9 after a viewer recorded how he violently knocked protester Dounya Zayer down during demonstrations of Floyd's death, causing her to become hers Head pounded on the sidewalk.
Zayer, who testified at a police violence hearing last week, said she has suffered from constant migraines and has been trying to keep food down since the May 29 shock left her with a seizure and concussion in the hospital.
"Where are the good cops that I keep hearing about?" Said Zayer.

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