What to Know
- Two brothers were arrested after NYPD officers said they recovered 40 pounds of cocaine during a raid at a Queens store
- All lab and field tests came back negative however, and police were seen on the store's security camera trying to disable the device
- An attorney who represents the brothers called the Queens gang unit a "unit gone wild"; the NYPD says the matter is under internal investigation
It was by chance that two brothers who own a smoke shop in Queens found video footage in a smashed video recorder when they returned to their store after spending more than a month in jail.
At the brothers’ arraignment in late August, prosecutors said in court NYPD cops had recovered 40 pounds of cocaine during a raid and search warrant by the Queens north gang unit. The DA’s office provided no documentation and asked for the two suspects to be held without bail.
“It was the worst day of my life,” said one of the brothers, who asked not to be identified by name. “We never had drugs in the store,” he added.
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When police lab tests for cocaine came back negative, prosecutors dismissed the felony drug charges. What was never brought up at the arraignment is that the gang unit members left field drug test kits at the scene which also tested negative for cocaine.
What cops also left: that destroyed recorder. The brothers took it to a friend who is a computer engineer and he recovered footage from two cameras. The video shows two different angles, one from an external camera and the other an internal camera. Officers are seen handcuffing the two owners. A few minutes later, a captain gestures to the location where the camera is located. He gets a step ladder and pulls the cords. Eventually, the camera goes blank.
Attorney Marvyn Kornberg, a criminal attorney who represents the brothers, said, “It’s a unit gone wild, that’s what it says to me. They think they’re above the law. They’re ripping out cameras. What are they afraid of the public seeing?”
The NYPD said the entire incident is under internal investigation and declined to make any official available on camera. A spokesman said the camera was disabled for “tactical” reasons.
“That’s ridiculous,” said Richard Rivera, a former police officer in West New York, New Jersey, who is now a police tactics expert.
“They could have covered the cameras. The way they come in doesn’t indicate that any of them is concerned about a remote feed. They’re not worried about security. It’s like a walk in the park to them.”
Rivera said there is no legitimate law enforcement reason for the officers to disable the camera and damage the recorder.
“This whole incident is a huge mess for them,” he said. “If this is an ongoing drug case, they would want to preserve the evidence, not destroy it, and that’s exactly what they did.”
The DA’s office said in a statement that prosecutors relied on information from the NYPD.
The brothers’ attorney has filed a demand for prosecutors to turn over the underlying basis for the search warrant. The two have filed a notice of claim to sue New York City.