Disturbing video shows man scream for help as police officers make aggressive arrest over smoking weed

Several police officers apparently assaulted the man while on the ground.

March 5, 2020, 4:53 PM

Police are investigating an arrest that was captured by a bystander in a pair of videos in Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday night that showed a man apparently getting assaulted by several police officers and arrested for allegedly smoking weed in a park.

"I never thought it would happen to me," said Fitzroy Gayle in one of the videos, who was stopped by a plainclothes NYPD officer from the 69th Precinct.

Fitzroy Gayle, 20, was on his way home from his second job when his mother Daphane Gayle called and asked him to pick up a few items from the store.

At some point, the young man met up with another man and went to 100% Playground near Glenwood Road and East 100th Street.

Anti-crime police officers in plainclothes observed the two men in the park smoking a lit marijuana cigarette, according to an NYPD spokeswoman.

"As the officers approached the individuals, they fled the location," the spokeswoman said.

PHOTO: An unidentified man was aggressively arrested for smoking weed in a Brooklyn, New York, park on March 4, 2020.
An unidentified man was aggressively arrested for smoking weed in a Brooklyn, New York, park on March 4, 2020.

At some point, a young woman, who says she was on her way home from work and that she noticed the "undercover cop" and one of the suspected men with his back against a metal gate. She started recording.

"What crime did I commit? Tell me! What's the problem?" the unidentified man asked the plainclothes officer while both of his hands were in the air. "I did not commit a crime."

The officer appears to ignore the man's questions and radioed for backup. A gaggle of uniformed and non-uniformed police officers rushed over.

"Help me!" screamed the man as he is seen on the video getting thrown to the ground.

The first two-minute video appears to show some half dozen police officers tackle, knee, kick and stomp on the man while he's on the ground pleading for help.

"I never been arrested a day in my life," the apprehended man is heard saying in between cries. Meanwhile, more bystanders gathered and are heard asking for the officers to stop.

"Do you need me to call someone?" asked the woman -- who identifies herself as "Velvet" -- and who recorded the videos. She said she regrets not asking him for his parent's contact information sooner, she posted later on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the man's 58-year-old mother was calling her son nonstop when he did not get home at his usual time of 7:30 p.m.

"All I know is he was not dead when they took him away," she wrote in a Twitter thread.

"Upon apprehension, one individual was arrested and the second individual was issued a summons," the NYPD spokeswoman said. "This incident is currently under internal review."

Just as Daphane Gayle was getting ready to go to her son's friends house to make sure he was safe, her daughter in Florida called alerting her to the video that made it's way from Twitter onto Facebook.

"My heart was racing. I couldn't even speak. I thought they were going to tell me he was dead," said Daphane Gayle, adding, "I kept looking at it and was saying to myself is this going to end like another Eric Garner situation."

Garner was stopped by police in Staten Island and was seen on video grasping for his last breath as several officers attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. Garner's last phrase "I can't breathe" became the battle cry for anti-police brutality rallies lead by activists and civil rights groups like Black Lives Matter.

Garner's July 2014 death was captured on cellphone video. He was 43.

Daphane Gayle raced to the precinct at 2 a.m. she said, and sought answers as to why her son was being detained, to no avail.

"I waited and waited and waited, they couldn't even tell me why he was there," said Daphane Gayle who is traumatized that the video plays repeatedly on social media. "It wasn't until someone told me to call Rev. McCall that they let my son go."

Daphane Gayle said her son had bruises all over and his pants were ripped.

"This traumatized him and it traumatized me," she said. " I know the police are here to protect, but the way they were hitting him kicking him ... he didn't even have anything on him."

Both New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea "have concerns" about the caught-on-camera arrest.

"I don’t like what I saw obviously -- it’s not what we’re trying to do here," said de Blasio at a press conference Thursday. "I don’t want any officer to stand on someone’s leg if they don’t have to. I want more communication between officers and the people they’re confronting."

"When you have two people take off running -- I've been in that situation myself -- and you don't know what you have. ... we will have to take a look at the entirety of it," said Shea. "The end is what concerns me. I'd love to have a different outcome where we wind up on the ground wrestling with somebody."

PHOTO: An unidentified man, right, was aggressively arrested by an undercover police officer for smoking weed in a Brooklyn, New York, park on March 4, 2020.
An unidentified man, right, was aggressively arrested by an undercover police officer for smoking weed in a Brooklyn, New York, park on March 4, 2020.

ABC News' request for more information about the arrests from NYPD was not immediately responded to but the man seen in the video was arrested and released Thursday afternoon, according to sources familiar with the case.

Shea did not identify the weed smoking suspects, but said they are ages 20 and 18. The man seen in the video was charged with possession of marijuana, resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration.

Since July 2014, the late Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson announced that individuals would not get prosecuted for some marijuana charges. Under the leadership of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, the policy was expanded in 2018 to not prosecute low-level marijuana possession cases, including those involving smoking in public.

"The only individuals currently prosecuted for these offenses are those who pose a threat to public safety (e.g. driving with burning marijuana), create a genuine nuisance (e.g. smoking on public transportation or in a schoolyard where children are exposed to smoke) or are involved in violent criminal activity (i.e. “drivers of crime”)," according to a 2018 announcement about the policy change.

The NYPD has discretion to arrest anyone for marijuana possession, but Gonzalez "has called for the issuance of civil summonses as a response to low-level marijuana use and possession, as opposed to criminal summonses that make up the current response to most low-level marijuana offenses."

Criminal court summonses are issued in order to avoid arrest and getting fingerprinted "unless they fail to show identification," according to the state's Unified Court System.

"Civil summonses are similar to traffic tickets, and compliance is ensured through fines, not warrants and arrests. In addition, civil summonses carry no possible jail time and are adjudicated by the City’s administrative tribunal, the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH)," according to the city's Criminal Justice Reform Act.

A spokeswoman for the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office said "We are aware of the concerns regarding this arrest and will be reviewing the incident."

After the videos were posted, they were liked over 100,000 times, retweeted over 54,000 times and received over 4,200 comments including a thread by city criminal defense attorney Rebecca Kavanagh.

"Regardless of the reason for the stop (because I am sure NYPD will come up with a reason like a report of a gun) there is no possible justification for this horrific use of violence," wrote Kavanagh.

The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) was also alerted on Twitter about the video and has created a thread to explain to the public and the women who posted the video on how to file a complaint.

Civil rights activist Rev. McCall held a rally outside of the 69th Precinct on Thursday at 4 p.m. "We will not be silent," said Rev. McCall.

"I keep telling God that I'm grateful that he is alive, that's all I can give thanks for," said Daphane Gayle who is contemplating filing a notice of claim against the city and the NYPD.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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