The first NYPD officer to face charges under New York's anti-chokehold law was cleared by a Queens grand jury on Tuesday.
David Afanador, who left the department for unrelated legal troubles earlier this year, was filmed putting a Black man in an apparent chokehold on the Rockaway Beach boardwalk last June. Video of the incident shows the officer placing his arm around the neck of Ricky Bellevue, who appears to lose consciousness, as bystanders plead with the cop to release him.
He was suspended by the NYPD and charged with aggravated strangulation by the Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz under a new state law passed just nine days before the incident. The arrest came as protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis were roiling New York City — and was dismissed by Afanador's attorney as the product of "enormous political pressure."
More than a year later, the Queens DA revealed on Tuesday that they had not secured an indictment. In a statement, Katz said she would work to make the minutes of the proceedings public in the interest of transparency.
Afanador was previously acquitted on charges for allegedly pistol-whipping a Black 16-year-old and breaking two of his teeth during a marijuana arrest. The allegations were substantiated by the NYPD's Civilian Complaint Review Board, records show, and Afanador was suspended for one month, before returning to the streets.
Earlier this year, Afanador was arrested for allegedly firing his pistol into the Atlantic Ocean. He was suspended without pay, and resigned from the department in March.
Rev. Kevin Mccall, a spokesperson for the Bellevue family, said he was disappointed by the grand jury's decision not to indict.
"This is third time he's getting off with a slap in the wrist," Mccall said. "He needs some jail time to deal with his issues."
Bellevue is currently incarcerated on Rikers Island, after flashing a box-cutter on a subway during what Mccall described as a mental health episode. The civil lawsuit against the NYPD and Afanador is ongoing.
Mccall said he had called on the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the case. "If we can’t get justice in Queens, we'll take our fight to Washington," he added.
An attorney for Afanador did not respond to a request for comment.