New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) has substantiated allegations against three officers involved in driving their police vehicles into a crowd of protesters during the 2020 racial-justice protests that followed the murder of George Floyd.
On May 30th of that year, an NYPD SUV was stopped by a throng of protesters on Flatbush Avenue in Park Slope. The crowd was blocking the street and throwing objects at the car. When another police SUV approached, both cars drove through the crowd.
Aaron Ross of Sheepshead Bay said he was injured in the incident and filed a complaint with the CCRB shortly after video of the encounter surfaced on social media. The video became one of several images that dominated news coverage of the demonstrations after Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis.
“It’s so ironic because we were there to protest against police brutality and then we became victims of police brutality ourselves,” Ross said in an interview with Gothamist.
In a letter from the CCRB dated April 6th, 2022, Ross was informed that the agency’s investigation into the matter had concluded. The board substantiated allegations against police officers Daniel Alvarez and Andrey Samusev, saying they struck Ross with a vehicle. Another officer, Arthur Roldan, was found to have committed “abuse of authority” for threatening an individual with the use of force.
The CCRB recommended charges against Alvarez and Samusev, a finding reserved for the most serious allegations of misconduct within the agency’s jurisdiction. Such charges can result in loss of vacation days or termination if the officer is found guilty.
The board’s recommendations will be forwarded to Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, who has final authority over what disciplinary action is actually imposed on officers. So far, the NYPD has only agreed with the CCRB’s recommendations in 42% of the most serious protest-related cases where charges were recommended.
In a written statement, an NYPD spokesperson said the CCRB's recommendations against the officers are currently under review. The CCRB said it could not comment because Alvarez and Samusev will now be tried by the CCRB's Administrative Prosecution Unit.
“I feel validated. I feel satisfied knowing that my complaint was substantiated,” Ross said. “But on the other hand, I also feel a little bit disgusted because, I mean, what's going to happen to these officers? They're going to lose a few days of vacation? They're going to lose pay?”
Ross said he would like to see the officers terminated and face criminal charges.
CCRB investigators were initially under pressure to quickly close complaints arising from the 2020 protests, according to multiple employees who did not want to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press. Now, nearly two years later, the agency is facing a statute of limitations deadline of May 4th, 2022 to complete all protest-related cases.
At the time of the incident, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio called the video upsetting but had placed blame on the protesters who were blocking the officers’ egress.
"It's inappropriate for protesters to surround a police vehicle and threaten police officers," de Blasio said. "That's wrong on its face, and that hasn't happened in the history of protest in NYC."
Christopher Werth is WNYC and Gothamist's investigative editor. You can send him tips at email@example.com or on Twitter at @c_werth. His phone and encrypted Signal app number is 347 613 6600.