Lawyers for a Black Lives Matter protester in Brooklyn who had his protective mask ripped off his face by an NYPD officer before he was pepper-sprayed are demanding that the cop be charged with assault.
Andrew Smith was protesting peacefully in Brooklyn on May 30, one of thousands voicing their anger toward the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and overall police brutality. Demonstrators in the city flooded the streets, coming toe-to-toe with the NYPD.
Smith said he didn’t say or do anything to Officer Michael Sher on the street that could have provoked the incident. He said his experience as a black man had taught him to be wary of sudden movements around police, so he kept his arms up – but got sprayed anyway.
Nearly three weeks after the incident and on the same day that the NYPD released body cam footage of the incident, his attorneys are calling on Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez to pursue charges against Sher.
"They have had this information for at least a week. It begs the question, what are you waiting for? Why hasn’t this officer been arrested? Why hasn’t this officer been charged?," the letter from Alain Massena read. "Andrew Smith has patiently given the Kings County District Attorney’s Office the benefit of the doubt. We are beginning to question whether the close ties between NYPD and the District Attorney’s Office is preventing the office from charging this officer. If true, that is unacceptable."
Smith's legal team said that the body cam video footage "not only corroborates what Andrew Smith has told the District Attorney's Office regarding his assault, but it show this officer's conduct was even worse because he attacked multiple protesters."
Despite the horrible experience, Smith previously said what happened didn’t surprise him. He also said what happened to him didn't dampen his spirits, and is thankful for the medics in the crowd who came to his aid.
“At a certain level I come to expect the police to do things that things that they shouldn’t do,” Smith said earlier in June, adding there should be “grave consequences” for the officer who sprayed him, more than “just a slap on the wrist.”
He said that he still can’t shake the pain he felt.
“It felt like a searing pain, also because we were in the sun,” Smith said. He and his attorneys want the cop to face criminal charges, civil consequences and demand the department make training changes.
“Maybe we can change not again to never again,” Massena said previously.
The officer was suspended without pay after the department reviewed the incident, which was one of several officer-protester clashes that turned violent during the early days of protesting. New York Attorney General Letitia James and DA Gonzalez both had said they would be looking into this case, as well as with many other incidents.
"No more delays! You are the chief law enforcement officer in Brooklyn. Do justice for Andrew Smith!," Tuesday's letter concluded.