A civil rights lawsuit filed against the City today alleges that a NYPD detective "viciously and unjustifiably" choked a Brooklyn man sitting on a bench in Crown Heights "to the point of unconsciousness." The complaint alleges that after Detective Jay Rivera choked James Young, he handcuffed Young to the bench while he was unconscious with "his eyes rolled back in his head and with foam around his mouth," and "failed to provide any medical assistance to Mr. Young or to call an ambulance." Young, a 49-year-old father of three, lapsed into a coma and died four months later.
Ellen Borakove, the spokeswoman from the City Medical Examiner's office confirmed that the first line of Young's death certificate states that Young died of "Anoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy Complicating Cardiac/Respiratory Arrest During Restraint By Police Officer." The second line, which indicates "significant contributing factors," lists "cocaine and opiate abuse."
The complaint requests a jury trial on behalf of Young's widow, Faith Young, and names Rivera, the City, and other police officers, John and Jane Does #1-10 who all allegedly failed to assist Young. Detective Rivera was working in the narcotics unit at the time of the incident.
"We don't know exactly what happened," one of Young's attorneys, Samuel Shapiro, says of the circumstances surrounding the strangling, which the complaint says occurred on June 3, 2011 near the intersection of Utica Avenue and Eastern Parkway. "We know he was arrested, but because he fell into a coma and never woke up, we have to rely on the discovery process."
Another one of Young's attorneys, Norman Siegel, says that Young's sister went to the location the next day to look for people who had witnessed her brother's strangling, and was told that one of the police officers on the scene saw Young foaming at the mouth and claimed he was "faking it."
The sequence of events alleged in the complaint were pieced together with the help of an investigator and witnesses accounts. Requests for comment made to the NYPD have not been returned. A spokesperson from the City's Law Department said they were currently reviewing the complaint.
"These are folks who are not looking to make this a TV item," Siegel said of Young's family. "They're still hurting from the loss of James, and they don't want to talk to the media. They simply want to know how James died, and hold those people responsible."