NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City police officer who was caught on video violently shoving a woman to the ground during a protest over the death of George Floyd was charged Tuesday with assault and other counts, prosecutors announced.
Officer Vincent D’Andraia is also being charged with criminal mischief, harassment and menacing in the May 29 altercation in Brooklyn in which protester Dounya Zayer says her head hit the pavement, resulting in a concussion, a seizure and a trip to the hospital, according to a news release from prosecutors.
D’Andraia, 28, is expected to be arraigned Tuesday, according to District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, who said he was “deeply troubled by this unnecessary assault.”
The Police Department suspended D’Andraia last week without pay. He had been assigned to Brooklyn’s 73rd Precinct. Any lawyer who could speak on his behalf could not be located.
The head of D’Andraia’s union, the Police Benevolent Association, said the mayor and police leaders were “sacrificing cops to save their own skin” by sending officers out to protests with “no support and no clear plan.”
“They should be the ones facing this mob-rule justice,” union president Pat Lynch said in a statement. “We will say it again: New York City police officers have been abandoned by our leadership. We are utterly alone in our efforts to protect our city.”
Bystander video of D’Andraia pushing the woman was viewed millions of times on Twitter and generated outrage among protesters and elected officials. The altercation underscored the concerns about police misconduct that prompted demonstrations around the country following Floyd’s May 25 death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries called for D’Andraia’s firing and praised the reassignment of his commanding officer, who witnessed the shoving and did not intervene.
“Violent police officers who brutalize civilians must be held accountable for their behavior,” Jeffries, a Democrat, said in a statement. “It’s my hope this is the beginning of transformational change in the largest police department in the nation.”
Zayer, 20, called D’Andraia a coward and suggested the assault would only deepen mistrust of law enforcement.
“I was protesting for a reason,” Zayer said in a video tweeted from her hospital bed. The officer, she added, “should have had the self restraint to not hurt the people he’s supposed to be protecting.”
The NYPD’s treatment of peaceful protesters has come under fire in recent weeks amid daily demonstrations spurred by Floyd’s death and police brutality against people of color.
The shoving in Brooklyn happened a day before a separate clash between police and protesters in which another NYPD officer was seen pulling a demonstrator’s mask down and using pepper spray. That officer was also suspended.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised all allegations of police misconduct would be investigated. But he also has played down accounts of police violence amid the unrest, telling reporters he personally had seen “no use of force around peaceful protests.”
He credited officers with using “lots of restraint.”