Local activists are crying foul after a video has surfaced of police officers allegedly using excessive force while arresting the 18-year-old son of a Sunset Park restaurateur after a brawl inside the bar and restaurant.
The arrest occurred on the evening of Saturday, November 21, after cops from the 72nd Precinct were called to deal with two drunken patrons, who argued over the night’s boxing match between Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez and started a fight of their own at El Tesoro Ecuatoriano, 4015 Fifth Avenue.
As seen in the surveillance video, the owner of the restaurant, Olga Cuzco, called the police as the patrons started pushing and punching each other. The establishment’s bouncers attempted to pull the combatants out of the bar. However, the fight was still in progress inside when plain clothes cops arrived.
“The bouncer helped subdue one of the drunken men,” said Dennis Flores, founder of El Grito de Sunset Park, which released the video on the group’s Facebook page. “He pinned him down while cops cuffed him and threw him to the ground. That’s when you see the owner’s son, Kevin Cuzco, who is 18, come outside.”
According to Flores, Kevin saw the police arresting the man and thought they were using excessive force. “Kevin told the police that they already had him,” Flores explained. “He’s already apprehended. Why are you continuing to kick him? The cop told him to shut up.”
About five minutes and 50 seconds into the video, said Flores, Kevin, “Got close but wasn’t interfering. Obstruction is when you prevent an arrest from happening. He was just watching,. The officer grabs him and punches him in the chest with a nightstick. The kid was walking away. But the cop pushed him twice, once with the nightstick, then with two fists.”
Video also shows Kevin’s father pulling him into the restaurant. “The officers followed him inside and threw him on the floor,” Flores said. “One of the officers hit him on top of the head with a baton.”
The wound sustained by Kevin, who was subsequently arrested, required five stitches. “He also had a black and blue ear and a busted lip because cops also punched him in the mouth,” Flores said.
One of the restaurant’s cooks also got involved in the altercation, Flores said.
“While Kevin was tossed around, one of the cooks who didn’t know what was going on ran out from the kitchen and saw what was happening. The cops were in plain clothes, and he sees them kicking and punching Kevin. He did what any good friend would do, and came to his defense and kicked the cop,” he explained, stressing that the cook didn’t know the men were officers because they weren’t wearing uniforms. “He didn’t knowingly go to attack cops.”
The cook was also taken into custody.
According to El Grito, the officers tried to tamper with and erase the video. “One of the officers comes in after incident,” he said. “You see him grab a chair and go where the surveillance equipment is and start messing with it. They spent hours meddling with the surveillance equipment, then got on the phone and called the vendor for the surveillance equipment and received step-by step instructions to retrieve the password. The footage was erased.”
Though, through the vendor, the owners retrieved the video, which was released by El Grito.
El Grito, which has aired videos of several controversial arrests in the past, claims the same few cops within the 72nd Precinct are responsible for the attacks. Flores feels more needs to be done to discipline these officers.
“They’re allowed to do what they want and walk away as if nothing happened. There’s not a sufficient discipline for these types of cops,” he said. “The repeat in excessive force by the same individuals doesn’t make us feel safe in Sunset Park.”
Contacted for comment, a spokesperson for the NYPD told this paper only, “The incident is currently under internal review.”