Here we go again: Queens officer suspended for using chokehold

Stephon Johnson | 6/25/2020, 10:33 a.m.
Another day, another story of police violence.
NYPD Photo by Bill Moore

Another day, another story of police violence.

Last Sunday morning, New York Police Department officers responded to a call of several men harassing and throwing objects at people while on the boardwalk at Rockaway Beach. A video of the incident surfaced where NYPD Officer David Afanador could be seen using a banned chokehold on 35-year-old Richard Bellevue to detain him. Other officers handcuffed him during the detention.

The video showed Afanador, wrapping his arms all the way around Bellevue’s neck while onlookers screamed at the cops to let him go. The incident took place under the jurisdiction of the 100th Precinct. The precinct, along with the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, is investigating the interaction.

After the video, shot by a civilian, surfaced, the NYPD uploaded body cam footage of the incident on its YouTube page.

In a statement provided by the NYPD to the AmNews, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea didn’t go as far as condemning the incident, but spoke of holding officers accountable.

“After a swift investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau, a police officer involved in a disturbing apparent chokehold incident in Queens has been suspended without pay,” said Shea. “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.”

When the AmNews requested a comment from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, we were directed to his Twitter account where he said “Today was the fastest I have EVER seen the NYPD act to discipline an officer. Within hours: immediate suspension, body camera footage released, discipline process initiated. This is how it needs to be.”

This incident isn’t Afanador’s first rodeo. In 2016, Afanador hit 16-year-old Kaheem Tribble in the face with his gun knocking out Tribble’s teeth in the process. However, he was allowed to stay on the force. According to Carolyn Martinez-Class of Communities United for Police Reform, the suspension is inefficient, there are blank spots in the story that need to be filled and the situation demonstrated the need for a change in legislation.

“NYPD Officer David Afanador must be fired, and the NYPD should immediately make public the names of other officers on the scene––and whether they reported the chokehold in their official reports and to superiors or whether they attempted to help cover up the chokehold incident––which is known to the public only because of the original bystander copwatch video,” said Class in an emailed statement to the AmNews. “Afanador’s continued presence on the force demonstrates why last week’s repeal of section 50-a is so important for increasing much-needed transparency and accountability around New Yorkers’ encounters with the police.”

Class also hopes Afanador faces a disciplinary trial before his 30-day suspension is up and hopes it’s not mean to “distract the public from whether or not Afanador will be fired…” Class wants the NYPD to make the names of the other officers on the scene public and whether or not the chokehold was in the official reports to superiors.