NYPD officer put on modified duty after violent social distancing violation arrest filmed

Police Commissioner Shea says he was not happy with cop's tactics.

May 4, 2020, 12:08 PM

An NYPD officer is under investigation after he was filmed punching and shoving a man to the ground after he allegedly violated coronavirus social distancing orders over the weekend, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said.

The viral video, which was shot by a bystander and uploaded to social media, showed the plainclothes officer arresting two people, Shakiem Brunson, 31, and Ashley Serrano, 22, at a deli in the East Village Saturday evening before approaching a third person, Donni Wright, 33, with his Taser drawn. After cursing at Wright, the officer tackled him, punched and slapped his head, and put his knee on Wright's neck while he handcuffed him, the video showed.

PHOTO: In this screen grab taken from a video, an NYPD officer is shown aiming a taser at a person watching an arrest being made.
In this screen grab taken from a video, an NYPD officer is shown aiming a taser at a person watching an arrest being made.
Daquan Owens/@PAULY466 via Storyful

Shea said the incident is still under investigation by internal affairs and the officer was placed on modified duty Saturday night.

"I was not happy with what I saw. We can be better than that," Shea said during the city's Monday coronavirus update.

PHOTO: In this screen grab taken from a video, NYPD officers make an arrest during social distancing enforcement.
In this screen grab taken from a video, NYPD officers make an arrest during social distancing enforcement.
Daquan Owens/@PAULY466 via Storyful

The NYPD said Brunson and Serrano were charged with disorderly conduct and marijuana charges. Shea said one of them had a Taser that was not issued by the department. Wright was charged with resisting arrest.

According to Shea, Brunson was sitting on an empty milk crate outside the deli, talking with Serrano before the arrest.

The video of the arrest went viral on social media throughout the weekend, with many critics pointing out that the NYPD didn't make similar arrests in parks and other locations where people were gathered close together in large numbers. There were over 112 summonses issued in the city over the weekend for failing to obey social distancing orders.

PHOTO: People are shown enjoying the warm weather at Domino Park in Williamsburg neighborhood in the Brooklyn, New York on May 3, 2020, during the COVID-19 outbreak.
People are shown enjoying the warm weather at Domino Park in Williamsburg neighborhood in the Brooklyn, New York on May 3, 2020, during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Adela Loconte/REX via Shutterstock

Several elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, criticized the officer and his actions and demanded a full investigation.

"What I saw was very unacceptable and discipline was swift," the mayor said during the Monday briefing.

City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, who represents the East Village, blasted the officer for his actions.

"Regardless of what transpired before the video, what is the justification for the rage? Where's the professionalism and de-escalation tactics we should expect? We will hold these officers accountable," she tweeted.

Shea reiterated that the NYPD has obtained more videos from the scene and is interviewing other witnesses. He said police officers are breaking up gatherings with no incidents.

PHOTO: In this Jan. 3, 2020, file photo, NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea speaks to the media during a press conference at City Hall in New York.
In this Jan. 3, 2020, file photo, NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea speaks to the media during a press conference at City Hall in New York.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images, FILE

"I think you need to look at it in the context of hundreds and hundreds of encounters every day,” the commissioner said.

De Blasio added that the NYPD has undergone several internal trainings on de-escalation tactics and community policing over the last few years.

"That video was more and more of a rarity. We still have work to do, but the progress is clear," he said of Saturday's incident.

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