Melee Caught On Video Prompts NYPD To Launch Another Internal Investigation

September 17, 2014 | Amy K. Nelson

The NYPD is investigating another confrontation between its officers and residents after a melee — caught on video — broke out on Sunday in Brooklyn, cops told ANIMAL. UPDATE (2:20PM): ANIMAL contacted DCPI and they confirmed that an officer involved in the incident was suspended.

(Read our interview with a person who was arrested and the man who shot the video.)

A video posted on Facebook begins with police telling street vendors in Sunset Park — known for its large Latino population — that it’s 6PM and they need to close up shop, and it ends with violence and multiple people being arrested and assaulted by police while cops also are attacked.

“I’m not allowed to comment,” 72nd precinct public information officer Dean Hanan told ANIMAL Wednesday morning. “It is being investigated by Internal Affairs. I have to forward you to [NYPD headquarters].”

It’s unclear how many people were arrested and what they were charged with. The NYPD has not responded to requests for comment.

On Sunday at the 5th Avenue festival a group of at least six officers approaches a vendor and tells him to shut down his table. It appears they give him no time and quickly it escalates. A black female police officer says “6’oclock it’s 6 o’clock. You guys know the rules. Simple.”

It then sounds like she says, “If you guys are gonna fuck with us, we’re gonna fuck with you,” and a male officer then starts asking an older woman on the street who she is and how old she is. A younger man in a Cincinatti Reds hat tells the group of women they don’t have to answer that, and the male cop then approaches the young man and soon a confrontation begins.

Cops can be seen punching and kicking the man in the Reds hat and it spirals downward, with people at times trying to fight back against police. Multiple people were shooting with their phones but the video on Facebook is the best footage of the incident.

A local Univision reporter went to Sunset Park and spoke with residents, including Elegia Santillo, who said her three sons were arrested, including her oldest who was punched by cops. She says they are all fruit vendors. A pregnant woman told Univision that police punched her in the back.

The confrontation prompted two local politicians to write NYPD commissioner William Bratton a letter, denouncing the violence and asking the commissioner to help bridge the fracture between cops and the community. The letter, sent on Monday by city councilman Carlos Menchaca and congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, underlines growing tension and issues stemming from police conduct:

We are a community that has felt unfairly targeted, particularly with the explosion of Stop and Frisk in our City over the last decade. We are community of immigrants that has historically felt isolated from the police. We are a community that has feared the use of excessive force by the NYPD. And sadly, the presence of police in our community does not consistently make our residents feel safer.

This summer has been one where the NYPD’s tactics have faced mounting criticism. The use of chokeholds have come under scrutiny since the death of Eric Garner, which led to Bratton recently testifying in front of city council that his force will undergo mandatory training on how to arrest without force.