A 22-year-old Queens man claims he was a victim of police brutality after he and several officers got into a verbal dispute outside a restaurant early Monday morning.
Cell phone video posted to YouTube shows NYPD officers rushing after Alejandro Rodriguez and wrestling him to the ground just after 4 a.m. at an Elmhurst intersection.
Rodriguez told NBC 4 New York he was at a Mexican restaurant takeout window on 90th Street and Roosevelt Avenue when a police officer walking by made a remark.
"One of the officers told us, 'Enjoy your tacos, you little punk,'" said Rodriguez, who is Mexican American and a student at Queens College. "I responded to him and told him, 'Are you serious right now? Did you seriously just call me that?'
"He looks over at his partner and says, 'Oh, he speaks English,'" he continued. "We exchanged words and I told him I'm leaving, because at the end of the day you're always right and I'm always wrong."
That's when Rodriguez said the officers began to tussle with him.
"They kicked me, they punched me. They're all on top, they're choking me. I couldn't breathe," he said. "They left my face all bloody."
Rodriguez was taken to Elmhurst Hospital with cuts and bruises.
Police had a different version of the events. They said Rodriguez was drunk and yelling obscenities at them. A separate cell phone video provided to NBC 4 New York appeared to capture some of the exchange leading to the physical confrontation and showed a man cursing at two officers while his friend shot the video.
"You said 'little punk,'" the man said in a profanity-laced tirade directed at the officers.
In the clip, the officers are seen asking the man and his friend to "go walk, walk to the corner," saying "I'm giving you a chance."
"When the officers ordered the male to disperse, he became agitated and began to spit at the officers," the NYPD said in a statement. "As the officers attempted to place the individual under arrest, the male refused to be handcuffed and physically struggled with the officers."
The department said two officers were taken to the hospital to be treated for hand and knee injuries. It did not comment on the allegations of bias remarks.
Rodriguez says he feels his rights were violated and that he was "disrespected, discriminated."
Police said Rodriguez was charged with obstructing governmental administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. But the case has been referred to the Internal Affairs Bureau and will be investigated by the Civilian Complaint Review Board.