A New York City police officer was charged with third-degree assault and other crimes Tuesday for viciously shoving to the street a 20-year-old woman who had been participating in a protest against police brutality.
Also Tuesday, the head of the New York Police Department said that another cop had been placed on modified duty and referred to disciplinary action for an incident in which he opened the door of a moving police car, hitting a protestor.
The cop charged Tuesday, Vincent D'Andraia, 28, of the 73rd Precinct in Brownsville, already had been suspended by the New York Police Department for the May 29 incident, which was captured on a video widely shared on Twitter and other social media platforms. The protest was one of many sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
That video shows D'Andraia hurling the protestor, Dounya Zayer, toward a curb on a street. He then walked off, with a police supervisor directly behind him.
According to prosecutors, Zayer had been in the street when D'Andraia told her to move. When Zayer asked why, the officer allegedly smacked her phone out of her hand and then shoved her down.
"I am deeply troubled by this unnecessary assault. We will now seek to hold this defendant accountable," Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement. Gonzalez charged D'Andraia with fourth-degree criminal mischief, second-degree harassment and third-degree menacing, in addition to the assault count.
D'Andraia was released without bail after surrendering in Brooklyn Criminal Court, where a judge ordered him to have no contact with Zayer.
The incident was one of a number in New York and other U.S. cities that has led to complaints of police overreaction to demonstrations related to Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes.
tIt is rare for an NYPD officer to be criminally charged in connection with their work, particularly in cases where they are accused of violence against a civilian.
"I fully support the long-held American tradition of non-violent protest," Gonzalez said.
"As District Attorney I cannot tolerate the use of excessive force against anyone exercising this Constitutionally guaranteed right. This is especially true of those who are sworn to protect us and uphold the law," the top prosecutor added.
Zayer has said that she was treated for a seizure and a concussion at a hospital after D'Andraia shoved her.
"He did this in front of his lieutenant and multiple other officers who watched me hit the ground. One even looked back to make sure I was still on the ground, and they continued walking," Zayer said last week.
"Not one officer tried to help me, and not one officer tried to stop the officer who assaulted me."
Zayer's lawyer, in a statement issued Tuesday, said, "Officer D'Andraia's arrest is not justice and accountability remains to be seen."
"Dounya was assaulted for the very reason she was protesting- police brutality," said the lawyer, Tahanie Aboushi. "The NYPD has been allowed to engaged in this type of conduct with impunity for too long."
"As Civil Rights attorney, I have litigated excessive force cases for over a decade and if not for the video this would be business as usual for the NYPD. No badge, privilege or special interest is above the law," Aboushi said.
The lawyer added, "It is also concerning that no action has been taken against Commander Craig Edelmen who sanctioned D'Andraia's misconduct by failing to intervene before, during and after his assault of Dounya. He has simply been reassigned which puts another community at risk and sends the message that supervisors who encourage this behavior are exempt from accountability."
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea last week apologized for cases in which officers have engaged "in racial bias, in excessive force, unacceptable behavior, unacceptable language, and many other mistakes."
"I have said where officers have acted unprofessional, we will deal with that, I will deal with that," Shea said at the time. The commissioner said then that there were a half-dozen or so videos showing possible police misconduct under review by the Internal Affairs Bureau.
On Tuesday, Shea issued a statement on the May 29 incident of a cop opening a door from the moving unmarked police car, striking a protester on a Brooklyn street, saying the "NYPD is taking action regarding an episode in recent days that raises serious concerns ... ."
"While the investigation is still ongoing, there is no doubt in my mind that based on the seriousness of what we've seen in recent days, transparency is critical," Shea said.
The commissioner said that Internal Affairs investigators have concluded an investigation, and the unidentified officer is now on modified duty.
"This case has been referred to the Department Advocate for disciplinary action," the NYPD said in a statement. "There are other matters that we are actively investigating and we will continue to be transparent as the process continues."
The Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents NYPD officers, on Monday condemned the expected prosecution of D'Andraia, and accused Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD leaders of "once again ... sacrificing cops to save their own skin."
"They created the failed strategy for managing these demonstrations. They sent police officers out to do the job with no support and no clear plan," said PBA President Patrick Lynch.
"They should be the ones facing this mob-rule justice. We will say it again: New York City police officers have been abandoned by our leadership. We are utterly alone in our efforts to protect our city," Lynch said.
The four Minneapolis cops involved in Floyd's arrest have all been fired. The officer who knelt on his neck, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with murder and manslaughter, while the other three cops have been charged with aiding and abetting those crimes.
The four officers had been arresting Floyd on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill in a purchase.
Chauvin is being held in lieu of bail of up to $1.25 million. The other three are being held in lieu of bail of up to $1 million.
Floyd's funeral is scheduled to take place in Houston on Tuesday.