By: Jared Evan & Fern Sidman
Those who want police departments nationwide to be defunded or even eliminated altogether need to explain what they would do without cops in the face of the nine-hour time period this past weekend that saw eight New Yorkers shot.
One of the shooting victims died as a result of the injuries suffered during the period, which spanned Saturday night and the wee hours of Sunday.
The horror started at around 7:20 Saturday evening. A 51-year-old man was shot in the leg in Manhattan’s East Village at East 12th Street near Avenue C. He died from the wounds at Bellevue Hospital. Police officials said his name was being withheld pending family notification of his death.
Up in East Harlem, an 18-year-old man was shot in the hand at around 8:40 p.m. at Second Avenue near East 101st Street. Less than 60 minutes later the Bronx became the scene of gun violence, as a 22-year-old man was shot in the chest at Burnside and Jerome avenues. Just over two hours later, a 21-year-old man was received a gunshot wound in the leg at NYCHA’s Walt Whitman Houses in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The final total saw an average of one New Yorker shot per hour.
On Sunday morning, a 24-year-old man sitting in a car at Dekalb and Targee streets in Park Hill, Staten Island took a bullet from a second motorist in his backside and ankle. Two more people – this time in Brooklyn – were shot at Sterling Place near Ralph Avenue just before 4:20 a.m.
The gunplay came just a couple of days after the NYPD had release crime stats for May. The city saw a 64% increase in shooting incidents (100 versus 61) for the month of May, and a 79% increase in the number of murders (34 versus 19).
With law enforcement nationwide taking unprecedented amounts of abuse from the public, NYPD officials were quick to point out “These are unprecedented times. Through it all, the men and women of the NYPD have worked relentlessly to ensure the safety of New Yorkers across all neighborhoods. The NYPD continues to gather timely intelligence, analyze crime trends and hone its crime prevention plans. The success of these ongoing efforts stands in large measure upon the trust NYPD officers work every day to earn from those they serve. It is a mission the NYPD strives to achieve on every job, on every shift.”
“I am proud of our police officers who have met the challenges of these trying times with remarkable fortitude and fairness,” said Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. “Their continuing success in simultaneously fighting crime, reinforcing the best public health practices and facilitating peaceful protest reflects the values of the New York City Police Department and the high standards of our profession.”
With the NYPD morale at a low and the lingering threats of a July 4th police walk-out, residents have been complaining that after calling 3-1-1 police are not responding to calls to stop people from lighting off illegal fireworks all night long.
There have already been more than 1,700 fireworks-related complaints to the city’s noise complaint hotline through the first half of June. Usually, there are just a few dozen such complaints during that time period, with only 21 registered during this time in 2019, NBC reported, meanwhile the NY Post reported an even higher numbers of complains .and highlighted how owners of dogs are having a rough time.
“He is literally scared” says Bed-Stuy dog owner Tarran Hatton, who’s been soothing her jumpy Labrador mix, County, late into the night — sometimes until 6 a.m. “[He’s] shivering and pretty much melding his 100-pound body into whatever human he thinks can protect him. He’s not able to go to the bathroom.”, a dog owner told the NY Post.
Some people are actually temporarily fleeing the city.
The Post reported; “Granted, dogs are honestly the least of concern here. There are infants, seniors, vets with PTSD and those battling COVID-19 at home that require broader consideration,” says Hatton, a pastry chef who recently launched mini-doughnut business BlissBomb. Still, she and her dog are fleeing Brooklyn for a fireworks-free reprieve animal sanctuary in the Poconos.
Central Brooklyn and Upper Manhattan host the worst hot spots, but predawn explosions are everywhere, the Post reported.
The fireworks issue was largely eliminated when former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani cracked down on illegal fireworks in the 90’s. With the protests still going on in the city for weeks, a city on edge going thru the process of re-opening and wound up residents, who have been locked up in their homes for months over the pandemic, this is yet another growing concern in NYC. Hopefully, this will dissipate after July 4th.
In addition to the quality of life issues for residents and their pets, fireworks can also cause serious fires and injuries due to improper use. NYC for decades up into the 90’s was known for being a ‘war zone’ leading up to July 4th, cumulating with hundreds of injuries logged in and many fires on Independence Day.
On Tuesday, AP reported that authorities are forming a new law enforcement task force to try to curb a surge in the use of illegal fireworks.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that the team made up of New York Police Department officers, fire department investigators and sheriff’s deputies will use undercover buys and other methods to try to cut off the supply chain of fireworks coming from out of state.
Social media videos have shown a growing number of people setting off fireworks on city streets in recent weeks.
“We’re cracking down on this activity at the source to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers and the ability of our neighbors to get some sleep,” de Blasio said in a statement.
Apparently the lack of enforcement is part and parcel of the police reform pushed in the City Council as the NYPD is being instructed to stay out of it. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams wants the police to focus on the suppliers of the illegal fireworks over the ones using them, while Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams urged residents to approach the culprits themselves, rather than ring 311 or 911 and risk a police confrontation, according to the NY Post.
Social media has also captured hoodlums shooting fireworks at each other and the police as they drive by, doing nothing in a City that begrudgingly supports them. Footage is emerging on social media of young thugs aiming Roman Candles at each other, instead of in the air, posing dangers to themselves and innocent people.
The George Floyd protests have emboldened crime, from quality of life issues such as fireworks to more serious crimes, as NYC has seen a huge increase in shootings in May and June.
Gerritsen Beach resident Elissa Maldonado, told TJV: “ the fireworks are going on until 3 AM every night in Gerritsen Beach, we all called 3-11, no actions have been taken at all, on one hand it’s good to hear activity, like the City is coming back to life and the festiveness of July 4th, on the other hand, we all need our sleep and it’s terrifying my bulldog and my daughter’s cat”
There have been no reported major seizures of fireworks by the NYPD or FDNY and with lawmakers not encouraging police involvement, the friction between the NYPD and the far left City Council; it’s safe to speculate their reluctance to investigate the sources of the fireworks can be part of a police slowdown, which has been hinted at repeatedly on social media by police officers.
In yet another related development on the dramatic spike in crime that has gripped New York City, the AP reported that an NYPD officer was suspended from duty after he was recorded Sunday putting a man in what the police commissioner said was a banned chokehold could face criminal charges for the second time in his career.
Queens prosecutors said Monday they’ve opened an investigation into Officer David Afanador’s actions on the boardwalk at Rockaway Beach, adding that “there must be zero tolerance for police misconduct.”
Afanador was acquitted in a previous case stemming from allegations he pistol-whipped a teenage suspect in Brooklyn and broke two of his teeth.
The police department moved quickly to suspend Afanador without pay after Sunday’s confrontation. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea announced his suspension just hours after video was posted on social media and called the swift action a sign of “unprecedented times.”
“I think we have an obligation to act swiftly but we also have to get it right and to inform the public about what’s going on,” Shea told TV station NY1 on Monday.
It’s at least the second time Afanador has been suspended from the force. The officer was sidelined after his 2014 arrest, only to return to duty after a judge acquitted him and his partner of all charges in 2016.
In that case, Afanador was seen on video using his gun to hit a 16-year-old boy during a marijuana bust. The beating continued until the boy dropped to the ground and was handcuffed. That altercation, which came six weeks after the police chokehold death of Eric Garner, also made headlines.
Afanador was involved in eight incidents that were the subject of complaints to the city’s police watchdog agency since joining the police department in 2005, according to records obtained Monday under a new state law making disciplinary files public.
They ranged from using discourteous language to using physical force and refusing to seek medical treatment. All of the allegations to the city’s Civilian Complaint Review were either unsubstantiated or led to exoneration except for the ones stemming from the altercation that led to his arrest.
In Sunday’s incident, in the wake of protests over George Floyd’s killing by police in Minneapolis, a video shot by one of the men involved in the altercation showed officers tackling a Black man and Afanador putting his arm around the man’s neck as he lay face down on the boardwalk. Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz has declined to prosecute any charges against the man.
Body camera footage released later by police showed that for at least 11 minutes before the arrest, three men were shouting insults at the police while the officers implored them to walk away.
“You had four officers engaged with three gentlemen on the boardwalk for probably 10 to 20 minutes exercising extreme restraint,” Shea said, testifying at a hearing on recent clashes between police officers and protesters.
“I think people should be condemning the acts, in my opinion, of the individuals — the language they used,” Shea continued. “I feel most bad for the people that have to walk by on that boardwalk. But at the end of that story, an officer, put his hand around a person’s neck, and that (officer) was dealt with swiftly and was suspended.”
Chokeholds have long been banned by the NYPD and their use has been especially fraught since Garner died in 2014 after an officer put him in a chokehold while trying to arrest him. Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week signed a statewide ban on police chokeholds.
The speed with which the NYPD suspended Afanador stood in sharp contrast to the drawn-out police disciplinary process of years past. Alluding to the public’s demand for police accountability since Floyd’s death, Shea told NY1: “I think it’s unprecedented times.”
Shea agreed to testify at Attorney General Letitia James’ hearing on the department’s response to recent protests after she publicly rebuked the police department and Mayor Bill de Blasio last week for ignoring invitations to participate.
Shea told James that fewer than 10 officers were being disciplined for alleged misconduct toward protesters, including one who was suspended without pay and later charged with assault after he was caught on camera shoving a woman to the ground on May 29. Shea said he was “very disturbed” by the incident.
Shea, however, defended officers seen on video driving their police department SUVs into a crowd, saying a preliminary internal investigation has concluded the officers were under siege and attempting to avoid harm. The matter remains under investigation by several city agencies.
James, a Democrat, is expected to issue a report on her findings by the end of the month.
In his testimony, Shea also underscored the plight of officers met with violence, such as bricks and bottles hurled at their heads. He said about 400 officers were injured in the unrest, with about 100 yet to return to duty.
“This was some of the worst rioting that occurred in our city in recent memory,” Shea said. He commended officers for their performance “in policing these protests, ending the riots and upholding the rule of law.”
(AP & JV)