EXCLUSIVE: Top cop discusses Sunset Park incident that paralyzed teen

May 22, 2018 Jaime DeJesus
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Deputy Inspector and Commanding Officer for the 72nd Precinct Emmanuel Gonzalez spoke to this paper exclusively on Tuesday, May 22 regarding an incident over the weekend which has reportedly left a 17-year-old with paralysis.

Authorities say that on Sunday, May 20 at around 2:30 a.m., cops responded to an altercation at Widdi Catering Hall, 5602 Sixth Avenue, after a quinceañera at which time, police say, they  saw about 40 individuals involved in a large brawl. They then observed a 17-year-old teen being restrained by others at the scene who, as the police approached, is said to have fled. Authorities say officers pursued the individual and caught up to to him at 54th Street and Fifth Avenue, where the officer and teen both fell to the ground.

The teen was placed in custody, at which point, he expressed that he had no feeling in his legs.

According to authorities, the officers removed the handcuffs, called his mother and told her to meet them at NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, where he was listed in serious condition.

Reports indicate that the teen is now conscious and alert, however, his prognosis is still unclear at this time. The incident remains under investigation.

“First and foremost, the officers and myself are concerned for the kid,” Gonzalez told this paper. “They were emotional about it. No one wants a 17-year-old kid to be hurt in this manner so our hearts and our prayers go out to the family.”

Moving forward, he said, the Force Investigation Division — a part of the force’s internal affairs — came straight to the precinct and secured any relevant surveillance video.

“There is video showing exactly what happened from two different angles and vantage points with the pursuit and incident itself,” Gonzalez explained.

Both he and Councilmember Carlos Menchaca visited the teen shortly after the incident to offer their support.

“Councilmember Menchaca and I did visit the family to express our thoughts,” he said. “The family wants their space and time with their son. We are providing that. We did offer our sympathies and [told them that] if they need anything, we’ll be there for them. Right now, they’re asking for space and time.”

Menchaca also released a statement calling for more information on the situation.

“I’m extremely concerned about the NYPD enforcement related incident early Sunday morning that resulted in serious injuries to a Sunset Park youth. Initial news reports offer few public details, and no way to understand what took place and why,” he said. “Any interaction with the police that results in serious injuries must be understood completely by the public and in a way that leads to prevention of similar tragic events. Today, I’m focused on the injured youth and his family here in Sunset Park.”

The pol is also in “direct consultation with NYPD” and has “lodged a demand with NYPD Commissioner [James] O’Neill for a thorough investigation, and an expedited accounting of exactly what happened. “Our community deserves full transparency and accountability for all NYPD interactions — especially ones that lead to such serious consequences,” he said.

Gonzalez also gave his perspective on the events.

“The initial 911 call was a response to a large brawl at 5402 Sixth Avenue,” he said, adding that it all started with the birthday celebration. “Generally, everybody knew each other. We were able to communicate well with the family. We never thought something like this would happen and we’re sorry that it did.

“I can’t make a statement of what occurred on the video but there are things that you don’t see,” he went on. “It appeared in the video that they both slipped and fell and, from my perspective and opinion, they both slipped on the ground. The officer went to grab him and the injuries occurred when he fell.”

The officer, too, sustained injuries during the fall, but not nearly as severe as the teen, Gonzalez said.

“My understanding is that he’s going to endure some type of paralysis and will need ongoing therapy for a long time,” the top cop said of the teen. “It’s still early to make that determination. I’m not upset at the officer or anybody. I’m just concerned and distraught that this happened here.”

Along with Menchaca, El Grito de Sunset Park has also come forward to question the police’s lack of communication with the public.

“How come [the mayor’s office] and the NYPD [have] not released the video of this arrest?” the group asked on its Facebook page. “Lack of transparency only leads to more questions about what happened during this arrest.”

Gonzalez requested that the public have patience for the video to be released, stressing that, first, the District Attorney’s office must view it.

“Once everything is investigated and completed, [it will be released],” he said. “We still haven’t completed all the interviews. They’re still putting all the video and reports together. There will be a time when the department is ready to release that. That’s with the permission with the DA’s office as well. It’s not just the police department. It’s a collaboration with the DA’s office when those videos will be made public. The councilmember has asked the NYPD to release those videos for transparency. However we have to maintain the integrity of the investigation.”


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