Two NYPD officers accused of driving into a crowd during the 2020 protests following the murder of George Floyd will stand trial before an administrative judge Wednesday. It’s one of the last cases still unresolved out of hundreds of complaints filed against officers who responded to the mass demonstrations.
The Civilian Complaint Review Board has charged officers Daniel Alvarez and Andrey Samusev with violating the New York Police Department’s use of force policy when they plowed their patrol cruisers into a throng of protesters blocking Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. A video of the incident went viral.
Video of the incident sparked outrage among many protesters and those who watched the video online.
Brooklyn resident Aaron Ross, who was in the crowd that day and filed a complaint with the CCRB, told Gothamist earlier this year that he felt both “validated” and “disgusted” when investigators determined that the officers were in the wrong.
“It’s so ironic because we were there to protest against police brutality and then we became victims of police brutality ourselves,” Ross said at the time.
Some officials, however, stood by the police response.
Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio scolded the protesters after watching the video, saying that it was “inappropriate” for them to surround a police vehicle and threaten police — something that he claimed had never happened before in the city’s history.
“The video was upsetting, and I wish the officers hadn’t done that,” he said during a press conference at the time. “But I also understood that they didn’t start this situation. This situation was started by a group of protesters converging on a police vehicle, attacking that vehicle. It’s unacceptable.”
Former NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea also defended the officers during questioning from Attorney General Letitia James. He said he did not believe Alvarez and Samusev had violated department policy, because they were “penned in by protesters.”
The Police Benevolent Association, which represents rank and file officers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Wednesday’s trial
The CCRB has spent more than two years investigating over 300 complaints and thousands of allegations related to the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. Those investigations stalled as officers refused to sit for in-person interviews during much of the COVID-19 pandemic. Investigators also struggled to parse through countless hours of body camera footage and identify officers whose names weren’t included in complaints.
However, in April, the CCRB substantiated Ross’s allegations against both Alvarez and Samusev, finding that they struck him with their vehicle and recommending charges against them. If found guilty, both officers could face a loss of vacation days or termination.
As of May, investigators had found evidence that officers had violated policy in 87 of the complaints stemming from the 2020 protests, while the NYPD had imposed discipline against 18 officers. After months of delays, the CCRB is expected to release a comprehensive report on its protest investigations early next year.
Christopher Werth contributed reporting.