A Queens man who was seen on video being strangled until he was unconscious by an NYPD officer is so traumatized by the Father's Day attack, he has checked himself into the hospital for a mental evaluation, his family said Friday.
"Ever since this has happened to Ricky, he has been been overwhelmed. ... He don't sleep. The most he does is close his eyes for five minutes," Judith Ceno, Ricky Bellevue's sister-in-law, said at a press conference outside of Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx.
Bellevue, 35, and his two friends were allegedly taunting and heckling several police officers as they responded to the Rockaway Beach boardwalk for a call of someone shouting at strangers.
Bellevue has a history of mental illness, his family said.
As two of Bellevue's friends were recording with their cellphones, he asked the officers if they were scared.
When Bellevue allegedly picked up a can from the trash, four of the officers, including David Afanador, grabbed him.
Bellevue was pinned to the ground as Afanador allegedly wrapped his arm around the man's neck.
"He says to me, 'Judy, I cannot close my eyes, every time I close my eyes I feel the officer choking me and I feel like I'm going to die,'" Ceno said, wiping away tears, with the family attorney Sanford Rubenstein and civil right activist Rev. Kevin McCall by her side.
Afanador allegedly continued to utilize the illegal chokehold as other officers handcuffed Bellevue. Within seconds, Bellevue's body appears on recordings to go limp and he loses consciousness, prosecutors said.
"Even under the most difficult of circumstances, this maneuver, this kind of action, is exactly the kind of police conduct that the NYPD has banned and our State Legislature criminalized," Queens County District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a statement on Thursday.
Afanador's only removes his arm from around Bellevue's neck after another police officer pulls on his back.
Less than a week after the incident, Afanador was suspended, arrested and charged with strangulation and attempted strangulation.
If convicted, Afanador faces up to seven years in prison. His attorney, Stephen Worth, said on Thursday that Afanador intends to "vigorously" fight the charges.
McCall blasted the district attorney's office for failing to contact Bellevue or his family at any point in the initial investigation.
"The NYPD and the district attorney's office did not provide support for Ricky Bellevue knowing that officer David Afanador violated his rights. ... It is unfortunate the victim had to find out about this arrest from news reports," said McCall.
A spokesperson for the district attorney's office said in a statement to ABC News, "The Queens District Attorney's Office refutes this allegation. We have been in touch with Mr. Ricky Bellevue throughout this process."
Bellevue's twin brother Fritz is concerned that this incident has sent him over the edge.
"We don't know what's wrong with him yet. He needs to be OK," said Ceno.