A man accused of stealing a slice of pizza was punched in the head by police and whacked with a baton inside a Brooklyn bodega, even though he had his hands up in surrender, surveillance video obtained by NBC 4 New York shows.
The video shows 24-year-old Thomas Jennings and one police officer standing in front of a camera inside the store on July 7 in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Jennings is seen holding his hands in the air as the officer, armed with a baton, speaks with him. Then, a second officer approaches from outside the camera’s view and punches the man in the back of the head.
Jennings then bends down to shield himself as the officer continues to hit the man. Then, the second officer begins to hit Jennings with the baton. There was no audio of the confrontation.
"He did nothing to warrant this," said Jennings’ attorney, Amy Rameau. "He intended to comply with police, he posed no threat to anyone in the store. He certainly posed no threat to police."
Rameau said that the altercation seen on video followed an incident in a pizzeria moments earlier, when her client and another man were a dollar short for a pizza order.
According to the Daily News, Jennings said he stepped outside to borrow a dollar. But a criminal complaint alleges that a man with a switchblade knife told a server he wasn’t paying and the men ran out with pizza and salt and pepper shakers. The officers tracked down Jennings a few moments later.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD’s internal affairs bureau are investigating the exchange. NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said he planned to look at the video.
"I look at all the videos when they are there for review, along with internal affairs," he said Wednesday. "It is under investigation."
Robbery charges that were filed against Jennings are also expected to be dropped, the newspaper says. But it's not the first time the struggling hip-hop artist has had a run-in with police. In April of last year, he was charged with resisting arrest, and in that case, suffered a broken nose, according to Rameau. That charge was also later dropped.
In the July 7 pizzeria incident, Jennings sustained a cut to his face that required five stitches to close, as well lumps to his neck and back and back pain, according to Rameau. She said the two officers seen in the video should be punished.
I want to see them prosecuted for what they did to my client," the attorney said. "What they did is a criminal act... it was a vicious assault."