The NYPD is investigating a violent arrest made yesterday in Washington Heights, after video showed a pair of transit cops beating two men with batons in the middle of the street.
The incident occurred at about 2:30 p.m. on Broadway near 169th Street, police said. A video posted to Instagram shows the cops whipping out their batons as they approach the two men, then swinging wildly at one suspect's face and shoulders.
The other man tries to flee, and is quickly tackled to the ground by the cops. A plainclothes officers joins the scuffle soon after, and the man is repeatedly struck in the head with a baton, even as he lies motionless on the ground. A longer video of the incident was obtained by Gothamist:
"You could see blood on the floor that starts leaking from the [second] guy's face," Mike Gonzalez, a Washington Heights resident who took the video, told Gothamist. "They had to call EMS to put something on his face to stop the bleeding. They couldn't put him in the patrol car like that."
Police have identified the men as Aaron Griessom, 36, and Sidney Williams, 37. Following the incident, they were taken to St. Luke’s Hospital with pain and bruising. Williams also suffered a nose injury, authorities said.
Police say they initially arrived at the scene because of complaints made by riders about the two men, who were allegedly smoking on the stairs of a nearby subway station. According to Gonzalez, the men are often seen panhandling at the corner of 169th and Broadway. Prior to the confrontation, they were asked to move from the spot by the transit cops and "mouthed off," the witness said.
Williams, a resident of Brooklyn, was charged with assault, resisting arrest, aggravated harassment, and menacing. Griessom, of the Bronx, was charged with assault, resisting arrest, and menacing.
Police said they are reviewing the incident. The names of the officers involved have not been released.
UPDATE 4:10 p.m.: One of the men who was beaten in the video is accusing the NYPD of racial profiling, claiming that he's faced harassment from officers in Washington Heights on several occasions. "They’ve been going at me for the last two, three months. Yeah, they provoke me. Call me bitches, n-gga and everything,” Aaron Griessom told the Post. "Unreal. Unprofessional. This was not an act. This was on purpose.”
The 36-year-old says that the altercation left him with three broken ribs and five staples in his head. The other man seen in the video, Sydney Williams, declined to comment, but had a large scab on his nose and tissues in his nostrils, according to the Post.
“I got a beatdown like I’m Rodney King,” Griessom added.
During an unrelated press conference on Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said a preliminary investigation indicated the men were "creating a real problem for neighbors," but noted that the video was nonetheless "very troubling."
"If people are on the ground and yet there is still physical action being taken, that concerns me," the mayor said. "So I want to get some answers and I want to quickly hear from the NYPD on the investigation."
A spokesperson for the NYPD told Gothamist this morning that the the department planned to issue a statement "shortly." That statement has not yet been released.