Police Actions Questioned After New York Violent Arrest for Social Distancing Infraction

Police Actions Questioned After New York Violent Arrest for Social Distancing Infraction

No city in the country has suffered more COVID-19 deaths than New York City, but a May 2 arrest raises questions regarding police enforcement of social distancing rules. There are no hard and fast regulations, but increasingly it appears there is one standard for caucasian residents violating social distancing and another for members of some minority groups.  

A video captures New York City Police Department (NYPD) Officer Francisco Garcia yelling at Donni Wright, 33, a black man, while holding a stun gun. Garcia then forces Wright to the ground. Once down, he hits him and kneels on his neck. Wright suffered serious injuries to his back, chest, and ribs and was hospitalized. 

Wright, who has worked as a groundskeeper for the New York City Housing Authority for the past ten years, was on his way to the store at the time, according to his mother, Donna Wright. She said her son cannot sit or lift due to his injuries, and is in “pretty bad shape.” Needless to say, he is unable to work at the job he loves. 

Before Wright’s arrest, Garcia and other officers were at a nearby corner where people were gathering and not wearing masks. Garcia and these officers were also unmasked. 

After the East Village incident, Garcia was placed on modified assignment and had his gun taken away while the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau investigated. 

Social Distancing Enforcement

That weekend, 1,000 police officers were on New York City streets enforcing social distancing regulations. Ubiquitous videos tell the tale of police giving masks to predominately white residents flocking to city parks, while aggressively enforcing orders to stay 6 feet apart in minority neighborhoods. 

When a large ultra-Orthodox Jewish funeral with over 1,000 attendees was broken up by police in Brooklyn on April 29, the police issued summonses, but there were no arrests. Ironically, the funeral was for a rabbi who succumbed to Covid-19. 

The Wright incident was just one of several such instances targeting minorities over the weekend. That same night, police used force against a group gathered in the East New York section of Brooklyn. After the police ordered the people to disperse, Albert Jones, 32, allegedly refused. He was arrested, and a crowd formed around the police vehicle. 

Antonio Rivera, 28, rushed the officers. He was knocked to the ground, unconscious. Another man was also arrested for refusing to disperse. While the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office announced they would not pursue charges against Jones and the other man, as low-level arrests are not being prosecuted during the pandemic, Rivera was arrested for marijuana possession as well as resisting arrest. 

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries tweeted, “Why are sunbathers who violate social distancing guidelines treated one way and young men in certain communities another?”

Get Cops Out of Social Distancing Enforcement

After the controversy sparked by the weekend’s violent arrests, the city’s largest police union demanded that officers “get out of the social distancing enforcement business,” calling the situation “untenable.” A representative from the Police Benevolent Association said that politicians have given police vague guidelines and mixed messages when it comes to social distancing policy. 

Act Quickly to Protect Your Civil Rights

Police misconduct and excessive force claims must be made within legal time limits (statute of limitations). This is usually a very short period of time to make a claim.

It is also important to act quickly because as time passes, evidence can be tampered with or disappear, witnesses can forget the details of what they saw, officers have more time to cover their tracks. Your attorney's investigators need to act fast if you want to see any results at all. Filing a police misconduct claim is a race against the clock. You must act now – to make your best case.

Bad cops, police departments, and any institution that allows them to break the law must pay their debt to society.

Jail Death and Injury Law has the national structure and deep resources to get to the bottom of any police misconduct investigation. We have developed a unique process for maximizing claims and finding the culprits. 

To see if you have a case, call us 866.836.4684 or Connect Online. All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept confidential. There is never any charge for initial consultations. Cases are handled on a contingent fee basis


Related topics: civil rights (40) | coronavirus (14) | police misconduct (52)

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