Following an allegedly violent arrest that left 17-year-old Jimmy Alvarado paralyzed, Councilmember Carlos Menchaca gathered on Saturday, May 26 in the heart of Sunset Park with the teen’s family and friends and local activists to demand answers.
The youth — who was described by his sister as “never a fighter, always thinking about tomorrow and his future” — was injured after police responded to an altercation at Widdi Catering Hall, 5602 Sixth Avenue, on Sunday, May 20 at around 2:30 a.m. Now, the group — which rallied outside La Vida Shoe Store, 5402 Fifth Avenue — is asking that surveillance video be released to the public.
“Throughout the years, we have documented incidents where police have been captured on video assaulting women, children, young adults and elderly people in the neighborhood,” said Dennis Flores, founder of El Grito de Sunset Park, a cop watch organization that has been documenting police interactions in Sunset for close to 20 years.
Flores stressed that video can help determine what actually happened in different incidents. “If it wasn’t for some of our videos, some people would still be in jail,” he said. “We have asked for many years for cops to release footage to the public so they can make a decision themselves about what transpired, what occurred and to this day we haven’t gotten a second of video released to us by the Police Department and that’s a problem. That lack of transparency creates a lack of trust.”
“We have community members here who have been part of the history reporting the violence that has taken place on Sunset Park. The public deserves full transparency and accountability for all police interactions, especially when loss of life occurs or there is a serious injury,” Menchaca added. “This is another tragic story that is inflicting pain in our communities that have for so long been disproportionately impacted by violence, sometimes unfortunately at the hands of police who are here to protect us.
“Nevertheless, time and time again, the community is left in the dark,” he went on. “We are calling for the release of all video associated with this incident that happened at this corner of 54th and Fifth Avenue. We are calling for the public to come forward with any information about what happened almost a week ago and we are calling on La Vida Shoe Store to do the right thing and release [its surveillance] video to the public.”
“I’m out here today to stand in solidarity with the family and also the Sunset Park community,” said Victor Dempsey, brother of Delrawn Small, killed in East New York in 2016 by a police officer, who was later acquitted of both second degree murder and manslaughter in the death. “This has gone on far too many times where police have used excessive force and negligence. We want to help the family fight for justice.”
“It’s really important that we are here to support the Alvarado family,” said Menchaca, who also used the occasion as an opportunity to announce a GoFundMe page started by the Legal Aid Society. “We need to make sure we take care of them as a community.”
Deputy Inspector Emmanuel Gonzalez, the commanding officer of the 72nd Precinct, stressed to this paper on Tuesday, May 22 that what had transpired was still under investigation.
“Once everything is investigated and completed, [it will be released],” he said.