What to Know
- A 16-year-old Bronx boy was allegedly beaten and Tased by police amid one of the city's most chaotic protest and looting nights in recent weeks
- According to the family, Jahmel Leach was walking along Fordham Road on the night of June 1 as looting was happening; relatives say Leach was just watching the protests, not participating in any mayhem
- A law enforcement source told NBC New York that Leach was suspected of being a looter along the street; the NYPD has launched an investigation
The family of a Bronx teen is demanding answers after they say the 16-year-old was beaten and Tased by NYPD amid a night of chaotic protests and looting stemming from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
According to the family, Jahmel Leach was walking along Fordham Road on the night of June 1 as several businesses were being targeted by looters. However, Leach was not participating in the looting or arson going on, his family told the New York Daily News.
"I demand justice. And I won't stop until I get it," the teen's mother, Daisy Acevedo, said Thursday afternoon, with her recovering son standing beside her wearing a mask that had "justice" written across it. "I'm not speaking just for my son, I'm speaking for every youth in America. This has to stop."
"It's just sad. It's just really, really sad," the teen's cousin Yamil Miller told the newspaper. Miller said that Jahmel had never been arrested before, and was only watching the protests, not participating in them.
A senior law enforcement official told NBC New York that Leach was suspected of being a looter along the street; that source said there is video of him entering and exiting a T-Mobile store that had been looted that night. NBC News obtained the security video that allegedly shows him striking a match or lighter five times to start a trash fire on the street near the store.
As he allegedly does that, an unmarked police car can be seen on video pulling up with three uniformed police officers coming out, and he's stunned by one of the cops, the officials said. Leach is seen getting hit with the Taser probes and falling flat on his face.
The officers then are seen trying to arrest Leach and hit him with a baton twice, once to the lower back and once to the legs, the official said. There is no video that shows officers hitting Leach in the face with a baton, despite photos that show serious injuries to his face, the senior law enforcement official said.
But Jahmel's family says it was a case of mistaken identity, and that the boy was standing next to the alleged arsonist, and was not the one striking the match.
"The family makes it clear he was an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time perhaps, but what is the NYPD doing tasing a 16-year-old boy" and using a baton on him, attorney Sanford Rubenstein said.
Photos: Scenes From Week-Long Protests in New York City
No stolen merchandise was found on Leach when he was placed under arrest, the law enforcement source said. His family denies the looting claim and said the teen had been charged with misdemeanor arson.
Miller told the Daily News that the police did not notify Leach's family when he was arrested, which they're required to do whenever a minor is placed under arrest. He said that Leach's mother was told about what happened when she received a call from St. Barnabas Hospital that night, and found him there with his face injured, swollen and bloodied.
The senior law enforcement official tells News 4 that NYPD records show Leach’s mother was notified of her son’s arrest at 11:30 p.m., about two and a half hours after he was first taken into custody on the street. The family said that Leach was led from the hospital to the police precinct barefoot and in nothing but a backless hospital gown.
Miller claims the officer who arrested Leach "beat" and "exploited" the teen.
"People, we don't treat human beings that way, especially minors. It impacts the rest of their lives," Miller said at the press conference Thursday outside the Bronx DA's office.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he talked with the boy's family and was "really troubled" by what he heard, and also pledged to get answers as he called for an investigation to provide some answers over the next few days.. The mayor was also photographed with Leach at a protest, with the picture posted on Miller's Instagram on Thursday.
"I met the young man. I met his family. I'm very concerned," the mayor said. "I want to make sure we get the truth and I want to make sure we follow through based on what the facts tell us and we'll have more to say on that in the next few days."
The mayor was not the only New York City leader to comment on the incident. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer called it "horrific" and called for an independent investigation. School Chancellor Richard Carranza said he also was "horrified" to see the injuries the teen suffered, adding that there is no place for violence against their students.
The NYPD has launched an "active investigation" into Leach's case, the senior law enforcement official said.