The NYPD officer who allegedly used an illegal chokehold on an unarmed Black man during an arrest on the Rockaway Boardwalk on Sunday, June 21, has been arrested.
David Afanador, 39, faces charges of attempted strangulation and strangulation, the NYPD announced Thursday. Afanador turned himself into the Queens District Attorney’s office, according to police. Afanador was arraigned before Queens Criminal Court Judge Danielle Hartman Thursday morning.
Under the new police reforms signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this month, the use of the chokehold by a police officer is considered a felony.
“The ink from the pen Gov. Cuomo used to sign this legislation was barely dry before this officer allegedly employed the very tactic the new law was designed to prohibit,” said District Attorney Melinda Katz. “Police officers are entrusted to serve and protect and the conduct alleged here cannot be tolerated. This police officer is now a defendant and is accused of using a chokehold, a maneuver we know has been lethal. This Office has zero tolerance for police misconduct.”
Afanador is accused of using the illegal maneuver to detain Ricky Bellevue during the weekend arrest. The incident was caught on camera by a bystander and widely shared online.
Soon after the video went viral, the NYPD released an officer’s body cam footage of the incident and suspended Afanador without pay by nightfall.
“We need justice for this man,” said Sanford Rubenstein, a lawyer representing Bellevue. “Cops can’t continue to get away with this type of atrocity.”
The incident began around 8:45 a.m., on Sunday, June 21, on the Rockaway Boardwalk at 131st Street. Three men on the boardwalk began to get into a verbal altercation with at least four police officers, the body cam footage shows.
At one point during the dispute, Bellevue, 35, appears to reach inside of a trashcan, at which point several officers tackle him to the ground, video shows.
While being cuffed, Afanador appears to wrap his arm around Bellevue’s neck. “He’s choking him,” someone call be heard yelling off camera.
Afanador can be seen holding Bellevue in the alleged chokehold after Bellevue had been put in handcuffs, according to Katz. Bellevue can be seeing going limp as he lost consciousness under Afanador’s maneuver, the DA said. Afanador eventually pulled his arm from around Bellevue’s neck after another officer taps on his shoulder.
Judge Hartman released Afanador on his own recognizance and scheduled his return date for August 3. If convicted, Afanador faces seven years in prison.
Additional reporting by Lloyd Mitchell.
This story was updated at 2:52 p.m., on June 25, 2020.