What to Know
- Officer Vincent D’Andraia surrendered to authorities Tuesday to face assault and other charges in the caught-on-camera shove of a woman protesting in Brooklyn late last month; the woman was concussed
- Another officer was put on modified duty Tuesday for allegedly opening the door of an unmarked police car, striking a protester on May 29
- More than 40 NYPD officers have been injured over the course of the protests as well, most bloodied amid the clashes and avoiding serious injury. One sergeant needed 10 stitches to the head
An NYPD officer has been charged with assault, harassment and other crimes for allegedly "violently" shoving a woman to the ground during a Barclays Center protest over the death of George Floyd, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The confrontation was captured on video that later went viral, enraging millions of people who watched it on social media. The 20-year-old victim, Dounya Zayer, smacked her head on the pavement after being shoved; she suffered a seizure and a concussion and needed to be hospitalized. Zayer was later released.
The 28-year-old officer, Vincent D’Andraia of the 73rd Precinct, was arraigned via video on the criminal complaint in Brooklyn later Tuesday after turning himself in. The court granted an order of protection for the woman he is accused of shoving, and the officer was released without bail. His lawyer, Stephen Worth, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but the police union blasted the charges.
"The officer was put in a bad situation during a bad time. Everybody walked away from him," Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said after the cop surrendered Tuesday. "The brass threw him under the bus."
The union boss said de Blasio and police leaders were “sacrificing cops to save their own skin” by sending officers out to protests with “no support and no clear plan.”
“They should be the ones facing this mob-rule justice,” Lynch said. “We will say it again: New York City police officers have been abandoned by our leadership. We are utterly alone in our efforts to protect our city.”
Zayer's attorney said that the arrest and arraignment are not enough, and said "accountability remains to be seen" from the police and the justice system.
"Dounya was assaulted for the very reason she was protesting — police brutality. The NYPD has been allowed to engaged in this type of conduct with impunity for too long," lawyer Tahanie Aboushi said.
D’Andraia faces up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine if convicted of the most serious charge, though first-time offenders rarely see any jail time. He was one of two officers initially suspended Friday after videos surfaced of their encounters with protesters in the city amid the nationwide demonstrations. In his case, prosecutors say he was caught on camera pushing Zayer to the ground during a demonstration near Barclays Center on May 29.
Prosecutors say Zayer was in the street when D'Andraia told her to move. As she asked why, the officer allegedly smacked her cellphone out of her hand and violently shoved her to the ground. She was seen on video rolling on the street and into a curb as D'Andraia and fellow officers continue walking.
Zayer said she was not aggressive with the officer before the incident. She spoke publicly about what happened, and her physical injuries, a few days later.
“I am in pain. My head hurts. I haven’t slept in three days. And I cannot stop throwing up,” said Zayer. “But I am trying everything in my power to hold myself together for the people who are depending on me to speak on the situation.”
“Them acting the way they acted today isn’t helping the cause. It isn’t proving to us that they care about us,” Zayer said. “He did this in front of his lieutenant and multiple other officers who watched me hit the ground. One even looked back to make sure I was still on the ground and they continued walking. Not one officer tried to help me and not one officer tried to stop the officer who assaulted me.”
The cop's supervisor is being disciplined as well, transferred from his precinct — but the lawyer for Zayer believes that is not good enough.
"It is also concerning that no action has been taken against Commander Craig Edelmen who sanctioned D'Andraia's misconduct by failing to intervene before, during and after his assault of Dounya," Aboushi said. "He has simply been reassigned which puts another community at risk and sends the message that supervisors who encourage this behavior are exempt from accountability."
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said he was "deeply troubled by this unnecessary assault," and would look to hold the officer accountable.
“I fully support the long-held American tradition of non-violent protest. As District Attorney I cannot tolerate the use of excessive force against anyone exercising this Constitutionally guaranteed right," DA Gonzalez said in a statement. "This is especially true of those who are sworn to protect us and uphold the law."
D’Andraia is the first New York City police officer to face criminal charges over alleged misconduct exhibited during days of unrest that roiled the city in the wake of Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. He has already been suspended without pay, and had his weapon taken away.
Another NYPD officer was suspended last week after being seen on video pulling a protester's protective mask down from his face and pepper-spraying him near Barclays Center. Yet another officer was placed on modified duty Tuesday in connection with a different incident the same day as the one at the Barclays Center.
In that case, the cop opened the door of an unmarked NYPD vehicle on a Brooklyn street, striking a protester. The NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau determined there may have been a policy violation and referred the case to the department advocate for disciplinary action, Commissioner Dermot Shea said Tuesday.
"As part of our obligation to provide accountability when officers fail to reflect the high standards we set, the NYPD is taking action regarding an episode in recent days that raises serious concerns," Shea said in a statement. "While the investigation is still ongoing, there is no doubt in my mind that based on the seriousness of what we’ve seen in recent days, transparency is critical."
Multiple videos of other police encounters remain under investigation with the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau. The Civilian Complaint Review Board reported 633 complaints against police since the start of the protests in New York City compared with 533 for the whole month of April.
More than 40 NYPD officers have been injured over the course of the protests as well, most bloodied amid the clashes and avoiding serious injury. In one case, an on-duty NYPD sergeant was hit on the head by a glass bottle someone threw near Fifth Avenue and 15th Street the evening of May 30. That officer needed 10 stitches. Cops said Tuesday they were looking for a man about 20 to 30 years old last seen running off with an orange towel around his waist.