The Legal Aid Society is demanding two NYPD officers be fired after they allegedly used excessive force in the form of punching, choking and macing a homeless man who was sleeping on the subway, the group claims.
Bodycam video, which was recorded in late May (before the death of George Floyd and the subsequent nationwide protests) but not released until Wednesday, shows the violent arrest that occurred shortly after midnight. In the disturbing clip, transit officers beat and dragged a man off a nearly empty 6 train car who they accused of taking up two seats, leaving him crying, bloody and fearing for his life.
Officer Adonis Long can be seen in the video motioning for Joseph Troiano to get off the train after violating MTA rules and lying down on multiple seats. 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." Troiano argues with him, insisting he's taking it to Brooklyn. The officer approaches Troiano and the incident quickly turns physical. The NYPD said officers used force on the 30-year-old because he attempted to strike the officer and resisted arrest.
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 former hairdresser 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.
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 next week. In a statement, they also implied that their office is looking into any potential police misconduct.
Troiano's lawyer said that if the officer's hand was injured, it likely was not his client'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 for now his lawyer said that he's 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.
The NYPD told NBC New York that they are aware of the use of force in the incident, and are reviewing the matter.