NYC man seen on video aggressively arrested seeks to sue for $50M

Police said he was allegedly smoking marijuana in a park after hours.

April 22, 2020, 8:12 PM

Six weeks have passed since a bystander recorded Fitzroy Gayle's interaction with NYPD officers that quickly escalated to an aggressive arrest over smoking marijuana in a park.

Yet, the 20-year-old Brooklyn, New York, man is still uttering the words over 142,000 Twitter users retweeted onto their timelines. "I never expect anything like that to happen to me," Gayle told ABC News on Wednesday.

Now, Gayle's civil attorney Sanford Rubenstein says he will file a $50 million notice of claim with the city's comptroller's office on Thursday. The NYPD officers involved allegedly falsely arrested and assaulted Gayle on March 4, according to Rubenstein.

The notice of claim, which is the first step before filing a formal lawsuit against the city, will also claim that the responding officers allegedly "engaged in a conspiracy to cover up their conduct."

Request for comment from the city's law department, which represent the NYPD in legal matters, was declined as the notice of claim is pre-litigation and not a formal lawsuit.

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.

Gayle was arrested after plaincothes officers spotted him and another young man allegedly smoking marijuana in a Brooklyn park. Police said the two men ran when the officers approached them.

"I never had any altercations with the police before," said Gayle who says he frequently watches the bystander's disturbing video of him screaming and begging for help in disbelief.

Gayle said he was fully conscious as several uniformed and plainclothes police officers threw him to the ground where he was punched, kicked, stomped and forcefully handcuffed. The other person Gayle was allegedly with received a summons and was released.

The NYPD launched an internal investigation after a video posted to social media.

Gayle was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration in the second degree. Both misdemeanors. He was also cited for violation of unlawful possession of marijuana in the second degree, according to the NYPD.

The charges are still pending as the coronavirus has suspended all pending matters in courts across the city, said Oren Yaniv, a spokesman with the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office

"I had a couple of nightmares," said Gayle who has been meditating more with hopes of overcoming what happened.

Both New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said on March 5 at a press conference that they "have concerns" about the caught-on-camera arrest.

But, Rubenstein claims that despite those concerns none of the officers involved were placed on modified duty pending the criminal or internal investigations.

"There is no change in the officers' duty status and the internal investigation is ongoing," a spokeswoman for the NYPD told ABC News on Wednesday.

"For these officers not to be placed on modified duty after a month, clearly means that there is a deadly virus of special treatment in the NYPD," Rev. Kevin McCall, a civil rights activists, told ABC News.

PHOTO: New York City Police car.
New York City Police car.
Getty Images

Gayle says he was held at the precinct from 10 p.m. until after 2 p.m. the following afternoon where he said officers intimidated him and threatened to send him to Rikers Island if he didn't admit to having marijuana on him.

"He was trying to make me scared because it's jail, you're in there and you can't do anything about it," said Gayle who was released from the precinct to his mother Daphane and McCall with a desk appearance ticket.

"As a mother looking at those eight police officers on top my son like that, I don't think I can overcome from what I saw, it's really painful," Gayle's 58-year-old mother told ABC News on Wednesday. "But by the grace of God it could of been much worse. Every day I see my son and I'm grateful because he could not be there."

The city's Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency that investigates the NYPD, said almost two dozen complaints had been filed regarding Gayle's case.

The NYPD has the discretion to arrest anyone for marijuana possession, but Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has called for issuing civil summonses as a response to low-level marijuana use and possession.

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.

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.

"Fitzroy will continue to cooperate fully with the criminal probe of the actions of the police officers involved being conducted by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office. We look forward to deposing all of the police officers involved in his beat down," said Rubenstein. "The fight for Justice for Fitzroy Gayle continues."

Gayle said the supervisors from his two jobs were concerned and supportive of him taking time off from work to heal from his injuries. He said he continues to receive medical treatment including physical therapy for the injuries to his head, neck, upper body, legs and lower back.