Last Wednesday night, Fitzroy Gayle was tackled by a group of nearly a dozen NYPD officers after he was detained without explanation near a park in Canarsie, Brooklyn. On Wednesday, Gayle and his family, along with their attorney Sanford Rubenstein, met with Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez to discuss dropping the charges against the 20-year-old.
"This is a young man, he has a future ahead of him, he's a good person and we cannot say that he is a criminal, because he's not," Gayle's sister, Tina Reid, said at a press conference outside the DA's office. "And I'm so proud of him, because he held up his hands in obedience."
Video of the encounter shows a plainclothes police officer stopping Gayle on Glenwood Avenue in Canarsie just before 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4th. In the video clip that went viral, the officer repeatedly refuses to answer Gayle's questions about why he is being detained, or whether he is free to leave.
Moments later, at least eight NYPD officers sprint toward the young man and tackle him to the ground, as he shouts for help and urges onlookers to call his mother. One of the officers can be seen pummeling Gayle as he's on the ground. "Help me!" Gayle cries. "I am not resisting!"
Gayle was charged with possession of marijuana, resisting arrest, and obstructing governmental administration. He left the encounter with abrasions to his knee and ankle.
Under the Right to Know Act, which the City Council passed in 2018, NYPD officers conducting stops involving physical searches are required to identify themselves, explain why they are making the stop, and offer the person stopped a business card with the officer's name and shield number on the card.
While both Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea expressed concern about the officers' behavior, both officials suggested that Gayle shouldn't have run from the police.
"My understanding of the narrative is this, the officers were responding in the community, looking for a shooter, see two men in a park, approached them and they both run. Once you have two people running from police officers, that raises additional concern," de Blasio told WNYC's Brian Lehrer on Friday. "I don't like how it ends, because it's not what we're trying to aspire to. We're trying to always deescalate and get things right...But I also want to emphasize that we have to strike a balance here. Anyone who is asked by a police officer to stop should stop."
The Reverend Kevin McCall, the President of Crisis Action Center, disputed this version of events at Wednesday's press conference.
"He did not run. If you look at the video, the park and the spot where he was stopped—it's across the street. So where did he run?" McCall said. "The Mayor is talking out two sides of his mouth. Either he's with the people or he's with the police."
All of the officers involved are still on active duty, the NYPD confirmed.
"Put these officers on modified duty—right now! Do it immediately," McCall said. "If you want to send a clear message, if you want to build community policing, if you want to make New York City great, and make New York City better, put these officers on modified duty then take them off the street so they won't beat nobody else's ass."
Rubenstein said he was "confident" that the Brooklyn DA's office would drop the charges against Gayle at the next court hearing on March 24th.
"The most important aspect of the meeting was the fact that we met with high level executives of this office as well as the District Attorney and the head of the Law Enforcement Accountability Bureau, Patrick O'Connor, who are conducting an investigation with regards to the actions of these police officers," Rubenstein said. The victim in this case will fully cooperate with that investigation. And with his cooperation we look for this division to do justice with [regards] to the actions of these police officers."
Gayle himself did not speak at the press conference, but his mother Daphne Gayle did.
"I am so thankful to God that my son is here with us today," she said. "And I'm also thankful for the District Attorney—I believe in him and I believe in his words, and I know that justice will be served. My son deserves to get back his rights."