Yesterday the NYPD Internal Affairs division announced an investigation into allegations of police brutality at a synagogue and homeless shelter in Crown Heights, where an NYPD officer was caught on surveillance camera beating a homeless man who had been sleeping on a couch at the shelter. Reactions to the video have been mixed—the synagogue's rabbi and two elected officials have harshly condemned the NYPD for excessive force. Over on the cop message board NYPD Rant, the video is seen through a predictably different set of eyes.
"This is a clear case of RESISTING ARREST," opines one NYPD Ranter. "This mope bought a ticket and he saw the show. I want to commend the male officer who certainly knows how to put up his dukes and handle himself." Another longs for "the good old days; when there were no di-ck-heads with cameras!" And a third brings it all back home to the war against the Nazis: "You're supposed to secure them with pixie dust and fly them away to jail on the back of a unicorn. I'm convinced if the majority of current day Americans had seen real time video of the landing on Omaha beach, they would have immediately surrendered to the Germans."
The homeless man, Ehud Halevy, 21, was charged with a felony count of assault on police officers, trespassing, marijuana possession, and other charges. (Read the full complaint below.) The officer administering the brunt of the beatdown, Luis A. Vega, suffered a sprained wrist which was allegedly caused by Halevy's "assault." But the video, first posted on CrownHeights.info, contradicts that charge—if anything, Vega's wrist injury was caused by Halevy's head getting in the way of his fist.
Rabbi Moishe Feiglin confirmed that Halevy had permission to stay at the shelter, and in fact had been sleeping there on other nights. It's still unclear why a volunteer called the cops last Monday morning and asked them to toss a sleeping Halevy out at 5 a.m., but the volunteer now regrets it. And Rabbi Feiglin tells City Room, “It was very painful to see one of our members being treated like that. It seemed like a senseless beating and we felt compassion for this young guy being beaten like that. We all need to have more compassion."
The criminal complaint (below) alleges that after Halevy refused to leave, he told officers that he would punch them if they tried to arrest them. In the silent surveillance video, you can see him keeping his hands out of reach of the officers, and then Officer Vega comes at Halevy like a boxer, punching him in the head and knocking him face down on a couch. Vega then continued to beat Halevy on the couch, as his partner Yelena Bruzzes hits him with a baton. Rabbi Feiglin also says Halevy was pepper-sprayed.
“By my count, one officer punched the victim over 20 times after he was already subdued,” Council member David Greenfield tells the Daily News. "That’s insane.” And Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind tells the Post, "When we watched the video and saw some of New York’s Finest behaving in a not very fine way, brutalizing an individual for absolutely no reason, it was just something horrible." Officer Vega has been placed on modified assignment, and the Brooklyn DA is also investigating the incident. Halevy hasn't been seen since he was released from jail on Thursday.
Here's the NYPD's official complaint against Halevy: