Newly released cellphone video shows a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer punching and tasing an 85-pound man with health issues.
In the video, it's obvious that 24-year-old William Colon does not want to be arrested. But it's hard to believe that the 4'8" man posed a serious threat to the cops who had entered his Staten Island apartment. Making matters worse, there seems to be a good chance Colon didn't do anything wrong in the first place.
The incident in question occurred on September 28—Colon's birthday. Colon told the New York Daily News he had been arguing with his girlfriend of 4 years, Lissette Torres, over some birthday gifts she gave him. A neighbor heard the argument and called 911, but by the time police arrived, Colon's brother Jazz had walked Torres out.
Cellphone video taken by Jazz and released by the Legal Aid Society, which is representing Colon, shows what happened next:
Several police officers can be seen entering the apartment, despite both brothers' protests. One of the officers pushes Colon onto a bed and attempts to restrain him, even as Jazz warns that his brother has "medical issues." Colon, for his part, repeatedly claims he "didn't do nothing."
At one point, the officer pulls out his Taser, prompting Jazz to say that "if you tase him, he will get hurt." Jazz tells his brother to "put your hands behind your back," but Colon won't comply, instead saying again that he "didn't do nothing."
Several officers are finally able to restrain Colon and hold his hands behind his back. But as Colon is pinned facedown on the bed, the officer who had previously pulled out the Taser starts punching him. The cop, who the Legal Aid Center identified as Vincenzo Trabolse, then tases Colon.
Colon says his health issues made the experience even worse. According to the Daily News:
Colon is afflicted with a range of health issues that he claims have made him frail. He says he has Mauriac Syndrome, an illness related to diabetes that causes dwarfism. He is also asthmatic, has curvature of the spine and has an intestinal disorder.
"When they tased me, my blood sugar skyrocketed," Colon told the newspaper. "I was very nauseous and pale and vomiting. They thought I was going to go into a diabetic coma. I had to go for X-rays. My body was sore and bruised."
A police official, however, said a scratch on the shoulder was the only real physical injury Colon suffered. "The majority of the time he was in the hospital was for psychiatric observation because he had a history [of psychiatric issues]," the official told the Daily News. "We have eight body-worn camera videos which support our report."
The Staten Island District Attorney's Office said in a statement to Patch that Colon had called one of the officers a "pig" and a "p---y." Both the district attorney's office and the NYPD said they will investigate the officers' conduct.
Colon, meanwhile, has been charged with assault and resisting arrest. Torres "suffered clear and obvious injuries to her face," a spokesperson for the district attorney told WPIX. According to a criminal complaint, Colon punched her in the face.
But that's not what happened, says Colon. His lawyers told the Daily News that Torres fell while she was leaving the apartment.
And Torres herself denies that Colon hit her. "She stated to me that Mr. Colon did not hit her, and she did not call the police," her lawyer, Lou Gelormino, told WNBC.
According to Gelormino, that's not what the cops wanted to hear. "She further stated that she was taken to the police station under the false pretense that they were going to drive her home," Gelormino said. "When she got to the station the police threatened to charge her with various crimes unless she made a statement attesting to the fact that Mr. Colon hit her and then said the police officers told her exactly what to write."
Obviously, all the facts have yet to come out. But the conduct of the officers, particularly Trabolse, is troubling. For one thing, Colon clearly didn't pose a threat to the eight officers in the room. Punching and tasing him was almost certainly unnecessary, especially after the cops had been warned about his medical problems. And even if Colon insulted the officers, that doesn't justify violence. Hurting him because he insulted police officers is a form of extrajudicial punishment, which cops are not and should not be authorized to carry out.
Hopefully, internal affairs will also look into officers' interactions with Torres. If what her lawyer says is true, then the cops tried to force her to lie, possibly so their treatment of Colon would appear justified.
It's worth noting that the NYPD doesn't exactly have a great track record when it comes to treating innocent people like criminals. Consider the officers who raided the wrong house and arrested the family inside (before posting pictures of the raid to Snapchat), as well as the Coney Island cop who assaulted a man over a dropped drink.
The NYPD needs to build trust within the community. Incidents like these don't help.