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- October 21, 2020
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A New York City police officer enforcing social distancing guidelines was filmed brutally beating a bystander and kneeling on his neck.
The violent altercation caught on camera by Daquan Owens led to the arrest of three people in the city’s East Village on Saturday. Owens said the incident began after undercover officers approached a couple talking outside of a deli and demanded they separate, although Owens said they were maintaining the six-foot distance recommended by health officials.
As police tried to handcuff the couple, identified as 31-year-old Shakiem Brunson and 22-year-old Ashley Serrano, one of the officers can be seen pointing a taser at the bystander, 33-year-old Donni Wright. The officer can be heard calling Wright a racial slur before slamming him to the ground, punching him and kneeling on his neck.
‘They were social distancing,’ Owens told Gothamist, referring to Brunson and Serrano.
‘The girl was standing by the phone booth, the guy was sitting on a milk crate. When the cops pulled up she said he’s not doing anything. They grabbed her and started tussling with her. Then the guy on the milk crate got mad and started yelling at police.’
‘Donni wasn’t being aggressive, he was just talking. He never raised his hands or hit him. Cop just took it upon himself to start beating him. I was standing right next to him. I could hear everything,’ Owens continued.
NYPD spokesperson Sergeant Mary O’Donnell responded to the incident in a statement, saying ‘a group was observed…in violation with social distancing orders.’ The statement went on to say that when the officers approached the group, ‘they observed a bag of alleged marijuana in plain view.’
O’Donnell said Wright ‘took a fighting stance against the officer,’ although the footage shows Wright’s hands at his sides, although he can be seen making a fist with his right hand. Another video taken from a different angle appears to show the officer approaching Wright without any provocation, but it is unclear what ultimately led to Wright’s arrest.
Wright has since been charged with assaulting an officer, menacing, recisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct.
‘He doesn’t have a criminal record. He was going to the store after work, and the officer punched him to the floor,’ Wright’s mother, Donna, said.
The clip has since been viewed over 74,000 times, sparking calls for an investigation into the officer’s actions.