The New York Police Department officer seen on video putting a man into a chokehold during an arrest over the weekend is the first officer in the state to be charged under the recently enacted state and city laws banning police chokeholds.
The officer, David Afanador, 39, was charged with 'attempted strangulation' and 'strangulation,' according to a press release from the Queens County District Attorney.
Afanador pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Queens County Criminal Court Thursday morning, according to his attorney Steven Worth.
'It's troubling that prosecutors are now succumbing to political pressure to make summary arrests a few days after the incident rather than conduct a thorough investigation. It seems that everyone is entitled to due process these days but police officers,' Worth told CNN.
Prosecutors allege Officer Afanador continued a chokehold Sunday on Ricky Bellevue, 35, as other officers handcuffed him, causing Bellevue to lose consciousness, and Afanador didn't let go until another police officer pulled on Afanador's back, the release said.
Bellevue was admitted to the hospital Thursday with symptoms he's never shown before, his family and attorney announced at a Friday press conference.
'When someone gets choked until they pass out, they lose oxygen to the brain, and the extent of the brain damage he suffered at that time is something this hospital has to determine,' attorney Sanford Rubenstein said.
The chokehold incident exacerbated his previous mental illness, Rubenstein said, and he's being treated for both physical and psychological injuries.
'Body worn camera footage shows these police officers were cursed at and badgered. Every day, however, police officers find themselves in circumstances that require them to exercise restraint and are charged with de-escalating potentially volatile conflicts,' Queens County District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a press release issued prior to the arraignment.
The New York City Council last week passed a package of police reform measures, including an official ban on chokeholds. The bills passed amid nationwide protests spurred by the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck for several minutes.
'The ink from the pen Gov. Cuomo used to sign this legislation was barely dry before this officer allegedly employed the very tactic the new law was designed to prohibit,' Katz said.
'Police officers are entrusted to serve and protect -- and the conduct alleged here cannot be tolerated. This police officer is now a defendant and is accused of using a chokehold, a maneuver we know has been lethal. This Office has zero tolerance for police misconduct,' Katz said.
If convicted, Afanador faces up to seven years in prison.
Afanador, who has been suspended without pay since the video surfaced, has been with the police force for 15 years.
Body camera footage of the New York incident was released as part of directives from Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. The victim this week was recovering from his injuries.
'The video is very concerning,' a spokesperson for de Blasio's office said Sunday. 'We're glad the NYPD is immediately launching an investigation to get to the bottom of what happened.'