NYC: Pistol-Whipped for Cannabis Possession

We reported yesterday about the two New York City cops have been disciplined after a disturbing video surfaced showing a 16-year-old boy being pistol-whipped and beaten after having being stopped on suspicion of pot possession.

A Brooklyn grand jury is set to begin hearing evidence in the case to determine whether criminal charges should be brought against the cops, according to the Daily News of Oct. 7. The video, taken around 2:20 AM on Aug. 29, shows Kahreem Tribble running from police, slowing down and apparently attempting to surrender on St. John’s Place in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He’d already come to a complete stop on the sidewalk when one of the cops, identified as Tyrane Isaac, threw a punch to Tribble’s head. The teen put up his hands — only to have a second cop, David Afanador, slug him across the face with his sidearm. A third officer, identified as Christopher Mastoros, can be seen taking no action to help Tribble as he is brutalized.

Tribble suffered several broken teeth, swelling and mouth injuries. He was arrested for marijuana possession. Police said Tribble tossed a small canvas bag as they gave chase; the recovered bag contained 17 zip-lock baggies of cannabis. “These police officers behaved themselves in a truly deplorable manner,” said Tribble’s lawyer, Amy Rameau. “This type of conduct should not be tolerated and I want to see them prosecuted for what they did to my client.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio has been forced to speak on the matter — and stuck up for his appointee, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. “Clearly, Commissioner Bratton has seen the video and reacted very aggressively in the sense of saying there have to be consequences when anything is done the wrong way,” the Mayor said, using the incident as an opportunity for a little feel-good grandstanding: “I see these videos as another piece of information that we need to use to improve the relationship between police and community, and in many cases to heal the relationship between police and community.”

The embarrassing affair comes amid mounting incidents of horrific police brutality since de Blasio took office. The Civilian Complaint Review Board just released a 120-page document prepared in response to the July death of Eric Garner on Staten Island, who was evidently killed when cops placed him in an illegal chokehold. The new report, obtained by the New York Post, finds that the NYPD has a chokehold problem. It blasts the department for failing to discipline cops in all but the worst cases. It also scolds the department for softening the definition of a chokehold in order to let bad cops off the hook. The report says “chokeholds persist and appear to be increasing,” although, of course, the conservative NY Post emphasizes that “only” 10 such cases have been substantiated out of 1,128 allegations brought to the agency since 2009.

As the Post writes: “In other words, the board’s own investigations were able to prove, on average, less than 2 percent of chokehold complaints — something the report blames on inconclusive evidence and its own previously lax investigators.” This is supposed to comfort us? A less forgiving write-up in DNA Info notes that complaints about the use of banned chokeholds have doubled since 2001, and more than 150 incidents were misclassified.

In another particularly egregious case, reported by the Daily News Sept. 25, a cell-phone video showed 43-year-old Sandra Amezquita — five months pregnant — being thrown to the pavement by a cop during the arrest of her 17-year-old son, Jhohan Lemos, in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. Amezquita says she rushed to her son as cops were beating him, and is asking prosecutors to launch a criminal investigation. The officers said they suspected Lemos was part of a local robbery crew. Amezquita’s attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, said: “She was doing nothing wrong — an innocent victim.”

Just to make everything messier, Rubenstein was also representing Eric Garner’s family, but recently bowed out, under accusations that he raped an associate of activist preacher Al Sharpton, who has also been speaking on the family’s behalf. And Tracy Catapano-Fox, the ousted executive director of the CCRB, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging she’d been sacked because she pursued sexual harassment complaints against another member, Bishop Mitchell Taylor—and for speaking out against a “blatant attempt to protect the NYPD.”

Catapano-Fox claims in her lawsuit that the CCRB’s new chair, Richard Emery, who was appointed in July, “colluded with the NYPD… by repeatedly refusing to challenge its failure to discipline officers who violate the civil rights of the citizens of New York City.” Emery is especially accused of going along with the department’s effort to low-ball the true number of chokehold and “stop-and-frisk” instances by officers. Taylor is already facing scrutiny after a video showed him waving a pickaxe at hotel workers during a protest in Queens, where he was leading a rally by neighborhood residents demanding employment.

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