Police accountability activist Jose LaSalle has released portions of audio secretly recorded inside an NYPD precinct last summer—recordings that, according to LaSalle, prove police officers tampered with evidence and fabricated charges against him because of his work monitoring police activity.

The audio was recorded on LaSalle's phone in August, after he was arrested while filming what he says was an improper stop-and-frisk carried out by three plainclothes officers outside the Patterson Houses in Mott Haven. He was initially charged with possessing a radio that could transmit over police frequencies, though LaSalle maintains that it was a legal two-way walkie-talkie.

In excerpts of recordings from those devices, voices can be heard apparently celebrating the arrest of LaSalle, who founded the South Bronx-based group Cop Watch Patrol Unit in 2011. As several people congratulate the people who LaSalle says are the arresting officers for busting LaSalle on a felony, someone chants, "It's a party, it's a party, it's a party, hey!" Another voice asks, "Now for him, filming is a crime, right?"

The Bronx District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute the case, and LaSalle was released the following day, with his two cell phones and GoPro.

Following his release, LaSalle went to a diner on 161st Street with fellow cop-watchers, some of whom tweeted that he had evidence suggesting the arrest was illegal. About 30 minutes later, witnesses say, four police officers showed up at the diner to re-arrest LaSalle. Video of the encounter shows one officer receiving directions by phone, then telling the other officers, "We need his personal effects."

LaSalle was then brought to a holding cell, where he claims officers demanded that he unlock his cellphones. He refused to do so, and was released a few hours later, this time with an order to appear in court for an unspecified crime. The new charges, he would later learn, were obstructing governmental administration, harassment, and disorderly conduct. His recording devices, from which he had not yet obtained the audio, were reclassified as evidence and confiscated.

About an hour after his second arrest, LaSalle says that he received an email from an app on his phone alerting him that someone had attempted to unlock it with an incorrect passcode. Screenshots of the alert shared with Gothamist show that the attempt was made in the vicinity of the Police Service Area 7 station house, where LaSalle had been jailed. Since the officers didn't have a warrant, the failed login could qualify as an illegal search, according to LaSalle's attorney.

"They wanted to intercept this audio," LaSalle said. "They'd rather tamper with the evidence, which they did, and have this audio erased, than have this go out into the community. Guess what. They screwed up."

In January, prosecutors dismissed the second round of charges against LaSalle, and a few weeks later he was permitted to get his devices back. Many of the files stored on the GoPro had vanished, he said, but to his surprise, some audio from after the arrest remained on one of the locked phones.

In addition to the recording of the officers seeming to cheer the arrest, the phone had also picked up a conversation that seems to be between the two arresting officers, discussing whether they could charge LaSalle with a felony for possessing a certain type of radio.

One voice says, "That's a misdemeanor, bro. What the fuck?" and another responds, "There's no felony charge option? It's a misdemeanor. Maybe you could see like a felony charge." The first voice replies that it's a Class A misdemeanor, and that LaSalle should technically receive a Desk Appearance Ticket—which would allow him to be released directly from the precinct without having to go through Central Booking and a court arraignment. The other officer ultimately tells him to process the arrest without issuing a DAT.

In a different portion of the recording, officers can be heard discussing how far away LaSalle was while filming their interaction at the Patterson Houses. One voice suggests that he came close—"about like ten feet"—while another disagrees, pointing out that a different officer told him to stay away.

The recordings seem to contradict the various charges brought against LaSalle, and to support his claim that he was targeted by officers for his activism. It remains unclear what happened following the initial arrest that would have justified the additional charges. LaSalle's attorney alleges that cops deceived Bronx prosecutors into believing that LaSalle threatened a police captain over the radio, though the attorney declined to provide evidence for the allegation.

A spokesperson for the NYPD declined to comment on the allegation or whether the officers involved will face discipline.

One of the arresting officers, Elvis Duran, was sued in 2011 along with 10 other officers. A man named Juther Perez accused Duran and the others of falsely arresting him on drug-dealing charges when he went to check on his father, who was being arrested. The cops allegedly strip-searched Perez without cause, held him for two days, and pursued the bogus charges for three months before prosecutors tossed them. Perez was beaten to death with a hookah pipe during the litigation, but a jury ultimately upheld the false arrest claim and awarded his family $40,000. The city agreed to pay his lawyers $225,000 in fees.

Another officer involved in the arrest, Sergeant Miguel Frias, was sued the same year. He and another officer allegedly barged into a Bronx family’s apartment without a warrant and claimed that it was an abandoned apartment where drugs were being sold. When the woman who lived there with her husband objected, they allegedly maced her, and arrested her sons and husband on felony assault charges when they tried to intervene. Prosecutors later dismissed the charges. The city settled the case for $60,000.

Outside of One Police Plaza on Monday, LaSalle, flanked by fellow cop watchers, families of people killed by the NYPD, and his attorney, announced that he's planning to sue the officers involved in his arrest, and called on Mayor de Blasio and police Commissioner James O'Neill to launch an investigation into the precinct. He also noted that a second event will be held outside the Bronx DA's office on Thursday, where he plans to release additional excerpts from the recordings.

"When you're filming police and documenting police activity in communities of color and putting it out there so other people can see, they see that as a threat, and they want to eliminate that threat," LaSalle said. "I think that audio is going to be something that shows people exactly how the police department acts when they feel threatened by someone."

At the press conference, LaSalle began to explain how exactly he was able to record inside the precinct, but his attorney quickly interjected, and he declined to elaborate further.

Update: A representative of the Bronx District Attorney's office has told Gothamist that the DA's Public Integrity Bureau is investigating the police procedures and activities surrounding the incident.

Additional reporting by Nathan Tempey