Another controversial arrest has taken place in Sunset Park and it has local elected officials and residents both angry and looking for answers.
Local activists are alleging that 21-year-old Daniel Shevchenko was roughed up in an encounter with two 72nd Precinct cops and an EMT in the early morning hours of Saturday, September 12.
The encounter, during which the cops arrested Shevchenko, who had alleged broken into the EMT’s vehicle at approximately 12:30 a.m., stealing his uniform and iPhone, was captured on video surveillance in the bodega near 54th Street and Fourth Avenue where the arrest took place.
The police had tracked Shevchenko down by using an app on the stolen iPhone.
The surveillance video appears to show that, during the arrest, the paramedic — who is not connected with the FDNY — attacked the suspect by punching him in the chest and face. The video also appears to show one of the officers punching the suspect in the back. Additional officers arrived on the scene shortly after this occurred, according to the video.
According to Dennis Flores, founder of El Grito De Sunset Park, a community organization that is known as a local police watch group, the owners of the bodega gave the group the footage to help find solutions.
“They were trying to locate the guy in the video that was arrested. They were afraid of the police so they didn’t want to be identified publicly,” Flores said. “That’s why they asked us to filter that through and speak on their behalf.”
Flores said he was disturbed by the footage. “What we see in the video is that the EMS worker went above and beyond the power of police by taking matters in own hands and obstructing the arrest,” he contended, adding that he felt the officers had used unnecessary force to apprehend the suspect. “Instead of officers helping the arrest, they were jumping a man that wasn’t resisting arrest.”
“I kept looking for some sign of resistance to arrest and saw none. It seems very clear that the EMS worker was taking a cheap shot,” added Tony Giordano of Sunset Parker. “He immediately went from victim to criminal and should have immediately been arrested.”
Elected officials were also upset at the footage. “I deplore the images captured on videotape of this man, surrounded by three police officers, showing no resistance, being beaten repeatedly by police officers and a medic,” said Assemblymember Felix Ortiz. “I hold the officers, medic and 72nd Precinct (and the officers who stood by for failing to stop the abuse) responsible. This is unacceptable and our community demands that these officers be placed on immediate suspension until the report is completed.”
Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and Congressmember Nydia Valezquez issued a joint statement, calling for action to be taken. “We are incredibly disturbed by the images depicted in a video that was recently released by El Grito De Sunset Park that depicts the use of excessive force by on-and-off-duty uniformed individuals–including some members of the New York City Police Department,” the statement read. “Even after the measurable progress we have made in Sunset Park with our local precinct this summer, this type of footage continues as commonplace in our neighborhood–it’s business as usual.”
Flores wants to see more than words. “They have power to change things, and they’re just pulling punches and doing damage control with these statements,” he said. “We want to engage with them to follow through so they’re not just empty words.”
Despite a sense of disappointment, Flores still hopes that progress can be made. “We want to bridge the gap that exist with police, but that comes with accountability and responsibility,” he said. “We want them to work with us to bring change. We’re not just about ranting and going after cops. We’re not anti-police. We’re pro-community.”
According to the NYPD, the incident is under internal review, and Shevchenko has been charged with grand larceny, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, criminal possession of stolen property and resisting arrest.