As attorneys demand two NYPD officers be fired for their alleged use of excessive force in the form of punching, choking and macing a homeless man who was sleeping on the subway, the victim says he is taking action of his own.
In an exclusive interview with NBC New York, Joseph Troiano said he plans to file a $40 million lawsuit against the city and the NYPD over the incident that is sparking new questions for city leaders.
Bodycam video recorded in late May, but not released until Wednesday, shows the violent arrest that occurred shortly after midnight at East 51st Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. In the disturbing clip, transit officers beat and dragged Troiano off a nearly empty 6 train car after they accused him of taking up two seats.
Officer Adonis Long can be seen in the video motioning for Troiano to get off the train after allegedly violating MTA rules and lying down on multiple seats. However Troiano's attorney, Pamela Roth, said that her client was sitting on the train with his bags in the seat beside him, which were with him because he had been in and out of homeless shelters.
Troiano exits the train car, but then hops into the one right behind it. Long can be heard saying that Troiano is holding up the train, telling him to "step off or I got to drag you off." The two argue, and the officer approaches Troiano before the incident quickly turns physical.
The officer takes him by the shoulder, and when Troiano shoves the officer's arm off of him, the cop strikes him in the side of the head multiple times. The NYPD said officers used force on the 30-year-old because he attempted to strike the officer and resisted arrest, a claim his attorney disputes.
The incident left Troiano crying, bloody and fearing for his life.
"When he hit me like that, I was stunned to the point where I was like, is this really happening?" Troiano told NBC New York. "I had such a horrible feeling thing that something was going to happen, like I was going to die."
The former hairdresser then gets thrown from the train, and while Troiano is on the platform, video shows the officer use mace at point-blank range. A lawyer for the homeless man said the video also shows police choking him, with hands seen around his neck at one point.
"They were pushing so hard that if they pushed any harder, I felt like my rib cages would've collapsed," Troiano said.
"The amount of force that was used on him by all of these officers, you'd think they were trying to take down a gorilla in the zoo," Roth said.
The body cam video was edited by the Legal Aid Society. NBC New York requested the unedited tape, but was not sent a copy of it.
According to the criminal complaint, Troiano was charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest and second degree assault — a felony, as the charges claimed he kicked one officer's right hand, injuring him.
However, after NBC New York inquired about the case, a spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney said that after viewing the video for the first time Tuesday night, the DA would be dismissing that felony charge. In a statement, they also implied that their office is looking into any potential police misconduct.
When asked about the case on Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he had not seen the video, but said he would view it and promised a full review of the incident.
"I don't think that's any way that someone should be handled by an officer of the law," Troiano said.
An attorney from the Legal Aide society said that if the officer's hand was injured, it likely was not Troiano's fault.
"If you look at the video, and see the way he punches Joseph, then perhaps he got the injury that way," said Edda Ness of the Legal Aid Society.
Troiano was apparently a victim of a slashing on Rikers Island in 2018 after he was arrested for shoplifting. He said he planned to sue the city for $30 million, but his lawyer said that he has been down on his luck and homeless, sleeping on subway trains because he didn't feel safe in shelters due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Troiano has had some legal run-ins with law enforcement before, according to police, with three open warrants. His criminal attorney told NBC New York that what's really relevant is the fact that he suffered trauma, and they want all charges dismissed.
The NYPD told NBC New York that they are aware of the use of force in the incident, and are reviewing the matter. City Hall did not return a request for comment.