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N.Y.P.D. Officer Who Violently Shoved Protester to Face Charges


A New York City police officer surrendered to face criminal charges on Tuesday, 11 days after he was recorded on video shoving a woman to the ground and cursing at her during a protest against police brutality, law enforcement officials said.

The Brooklyn district attorney’s office charged the officer, Vincent D’Andraia, in a criminal complaint with misdemeanor assault, criminal mischief, harassment and menacing over the May 29 incident, according to a statement.

The decision to charge Officer D’Andraia, 28, seemed to reflect the growing political pressure that recent protests have put on the police and prosecutors to hold officers accountable for misconduct and change a status quo that for decades has largely allowed police officers accused of assault or other violent acts on duty to avoid serious punishment.

Mass protests against police brutality swept the nation after the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a white officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes in Minneapolis.

Cellphone video showed Officer D’Andraia, 28, knocking the victim, Dounya Zayer, 20, to the ground and calling her a “bitch” after she asked him why he told her to get out of the street. The victim said she suffered a concussion and seizures.

The district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, said he could not tolerate the use of excessive force against people exercising their right to peacefully protest. “This is especially true of those who are sworn to protect us and uphold the law,” he added.

Ms. Zayer’s lawyer, Tahani Aboushi, said Monday that she was disappointed that prosecutors were not charging Officer D’Andraia with a felony given the seriousness of her client’s injuries and the severity of the conduct captured on the video.

“The concern here is that there’s a presentation that justice is being served, and then when the system plays itself out for special interests like law enforcement, it will end up with a dismissal or some kind of violation,” she said, adding, “Dounya does not want that.”

Officer D’Andraia, who has been suspended without pay, turned himself in early Tuesday at the 84th Precinct station house in Downtown Brooklyn. He is the first New York City police officer to face charges over his conduct during the protests, which have sprung up almost every day since Mr. Floyd died on May 25.

If convicted on the top charge against him, Officer D’Andraia faces a sentence of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Prosecutors are weighing criminal charges against as many as 40 other officers, law enforcement officials said. The police, district attorneys and lawmakers are under intense political pressure to hold officers responsible for instances in which unnecessary force was used against peaceful protesters.

Several other cases of police using violence against protesters that were recorded on video are being investigating, the police and prosecutors have said. A civilian oversight agency that investigates police misconduct said it had received hundreds of complaints since the protests started.

Officer D’Andraia and another officer involved in a separate incident were suspended last week after internal affairs investigators concluded they had violated department policies and recommended disciplinary charges. The second officer, who has not been named publicly, was recorded snatching off a man’s mask and pepper-spraying him during a protest on May 30 in Brooklyn.

Four law enforcement officials said that officer was also expected to face charges, though his arrest was not imminent. The officer’s lawyer, Stuart London, declined on Monday night to comment before the criminal investigation concluded.

On Tuesday, the police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, said an internal investigation of an officer who was recorded on May 29 hitting a protester in Brooklyn with the door of his unmarked police car had been referred to department prosecutors for disciplinary action.

“While the investigation is still ongoing, there is no doubt in my mind that based on the seriousness what we’ve seen in recent days, transparency is critical,” he said.

Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, which represents about 24,000 active officers, accused the mayor and top police officials of abandoning officers to “save their own skin.”

“They created the failed strategy for maintaining these demonstrations,” he said. “They sent police officers out to do the job with no support and no clear plan. They should be the ones facing this mob-rule justice.”

Officer D’Andraia joined the police department in January 2015 and was assigned to the 73rd Precinct in Brownsville.

Video from Ms. Zayer’s cellphone shows him approaching her as protesters left the Barclays Center. Deputy Inspector Craig Edelman, the precinct commander, followed close behind him.

As Ms. Zayer was backing away, Officer D’Andraia told her to get out of the street, according to her video. She asked “Why?” and a moment later the video abruptly ends as his right arm rose toward the camera. Ms. Zayer said he threw the device aside before pushing her.

A second video, recorded by a Newsweek reporter, shows Officer D’Andraia lean forward and thrust his arms into Ms. Zayer’s torso. She fell backward onto the pavement and rolled onto her side clutching the back of her head.

Ms. Zayer said she hit her head on the pavement, giving her a concussion, and that she has had seizures as a result.

“I think that officer D’Andraia is a coward,” she said during a recent interview with NBC New York. “He should never be allowed to wear a badge and a gun again.”

Ms. Aboushi, her lawyer, said the video was crucial to making sure the case was not ignored.

“Without this video, how would she seek justice?” Ms. Aboushi said. “She would be among the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who have been victims of excessive force and deadly force in this city that never had video and didn’t have photography. So the only thing they’d be left with are their injuries, both emotional and physical, from these encounters.”

In video of the incident, Inspector Edelman was one of several officers nearby who did not intervene to stop the attack and kept walking after it occurred. He has been transferred.

Representative Yvette Clarke, a Democrat whose district includes the Brownsville neighborhood in Brooklyn, said she hoped the investigations would lead to the officers’ firings.

She said in a statement on Monday: “Violence like we witnessed by Officer D’Andraia and Inspector Edelman’s complacency can escalate to murder — an all-too-common reality that’s stolen too many lives.”



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