[Screengrab from video taken by Daquan Owens]
Local community leaders and elected officials gathered on Thursday afternoon to demand action against Officer Francisco Garcia for the violent arrest of an East Village resident on May 2.
During the press conference at Ninth Street and Avenue D, the group called on NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea and Mayor de Blasio to stop delaying their investigation and fire Garcia ... and for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to file criminal charges.
Garcia, who's stationed at PS4 on Avenue C, was put on a desk assignment following the ugly confrontation when an attempt to enforce social distancing rules escalated on a spring Saturday afternoon.
Garcia and his partners originally approached a man and a woman outside the corner deli on Ninth and D over a lack of social distancing, police officials previously said. This encounter reportedly led to an arrest on marijuana and weapons charges.
As seen in a widely circulated video shot by a witness, Garcia, who was not in uniform, then walked toward several bystanders, including Donni Wright, a nearby resident who works for the NYCHA. Police officials originally said that Wright took a "fighting stance," which led Garcia to shout the n-word and brandish a taser before wrestling Wright to the ground and kneeling on his head. (See top image.)
Social justice activists and local elected officials have pointed out the similar tactics in this arrest with that of now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on the neck of George Floyd for more than eight minutes before he died on May 25.
Wright was arrested and was initially charged with assaulting an officer, menacing, resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct. The charges were later deferred by the DA's office. Wright has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the city.
In late May, The New York Times reported that the officers involved would face disciplinary charges.
Per the Times on May 29:
Investigators with the New York Police Department have recommended misconduct charges against three police officers, including one who sat and knelt on the neck and upper torso of a man he was arresting, a maneuver similar to the one used in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, two people familiar with the matter said.
It is unclear what charges the officers, including Francisco X. Garcia, will face in connection with the investigation of the May 2 incident ... one of several police encounters that led to accusations of racial bias in the enforcement of social distancing, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss an internal police investigation.
While Garcia has been investigated by Internal Affairs, with a recommendation that departmental charges be filed, police officials haven't provided any updates or offered clarity on why further actions are taking so long. (A police spokesperson told amNew York Metro that "the disciplinary process is ongoing.")
"We shouldn't have to stand here almost four months later demanding justice from a system that's supposed to protect our community," said local City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera on Thursday. "When we ask for the firing and criminal charges for Officer Garcia, we're asking them to make it clear that police abuse is unacceptable in any form. It’s a disgrace that six years after the death of Eric Garner and his denied justice, the de Blasio administration continues to deny justice for Black and brown communities. This must end."
It’s been nearly 4 months since Donni Wright was brutally assaulted by NYPD Officer Francisco Garcia. Yet Garcia remains on the force w/ no explanation.— NYC Council Member Carlina Rivera (@CMCarlinaRivera) August 20, 2020
Today our LES community is gathering to demand justice - Tune In! https://t.co/w4VbtRzbhf
And from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer: "Policing only works when police have the public's trust. Officer Garcia violated that trust when he knelt on Donni Wright's neck while attempting to arrest him for social distancing violations. The NYPD also violated that trust when they continued to have Garcia on the force even after multiple instances of prior misconduct. Officer Garcia must be held accountable: He must be fired from the police department and should face charges."
The city has paid out nearly $200,000 to settle lawsuits involving Garcia, an eight-year veteran, Gothamist reported.
Previously on EV Grieve:
• In aftermath of Avenue D arrests, pols want answers from city on how social distancing is being enforced
• Investigation for excessive force demanded after social-distancing arrests on Avenue D
• Caravan protest on Avenue C addresses racial bias and police violence in social-distancing arrests