A high-ranking police official is backing the detective who used a banned chokehold on a man in Inwood after responding to a noise complaint.
Chief of Department Terence Monahan did not specifically address Detective Fabio Nunez’s use of the chokehold in his July 14 arrest of Tomas Medina, but said in an internal video for police officers that the cop’s handling of the incident was appropriate.
As the Daily News first reported, Nunez initially responded to 206th St. to deal with a complaint about loud music. After a lengthy discussion, Nunez suddenly put Medina in the chokehold for about 20 seconds, according to video of the incident, before wrestling with him as other cops responded.
Lawyers for Medina previously argued that Nunez acted improperly when he used the chokehold. In an interview, Medina told The News he couldn’t breathe while the chokehold was applied.
But in his video, obtained by the Daily News, Monahan insists that Medina “violently resisted.”
“In reviewing the body-worn camera footage, it was clear he was demonstrating professionalism and patience from the start, requesting valid identification from the individual in order to issue a summons,” he said.
“The individual began to violently resist arrest. At that point, the detective and his partner, along with other responding officers, used the necessary force to take that individual into custody.”
In his five-minute video, Monahan also discusses incidents in Harlem and the South Bronx in which people filmed themselves heaping verbal abuse on police officers.
“There have been … videos that have gotten extensive coverage on the news and on social media that are of great concern to me,” Monahan says in the video. “They depict various examples of horrendous behavior toward NYPD cops that I have no doubt the vast majority of New Yorkers would find unacceptable.”
In the Harlem video, filmed at the 28th Precinct stationhouse, a man goads Sgt. Freddy Lopez, who gamely tries to get the man to stop. “Sgt. Lopez … he can suck a big fat f—— d—,” the man yells. “You’re supposed to be here to serve and protect, right? You’re not serving and protecting s—!”
Lopez warns him that he can’t record inside a police facility, but the man ignores him. Some cops told The News that Lopez or other cops should have taken action, such as arresting the man for criminal trespass. The man left the building without being arrested.
Monahan cited the incident in his video to remind cops they can arrest people recording in a stationhouse.
“The sergeant maintained his composure and addressed the individual in a respectful manner,” Monahan said. “He was correct in advising the individual that his behavior was prohibited and he could be arrested … I want to emphasize that the legal bureau has indicated that an arrest was also completely appropriate in that situation. He could have been charged with criminal trespass.”
The third incident recorded on a video shows teens berating cops who responded to a report of a fight in an apartment in Mott Haven, the Bronx, on Aug. 8. The clip shows four officers from the 40th Precinct walking down the stairs as the man behind the lens yells, “Suck my d—!” and another screams, “Get the f— out of my building!”
“This disgusting behavior is disturbing to any cop and really should be condemned by more leaders,” Monahan said. “Let me tell you: The officers handled themselves professionally. We as cops know we must have thick skin. Case law tells us we can’t get hooked by such vile language.”
Monahan adds that, had the cops been impeded at all in leaving the building or if other civilians were alarmed or felt endangered, they could have made arrests. “In this incident, leaving the building and not getting hooked was the best course of action,” he says.
“These videos do not depict an environment in which cops are unwilling to engage in their duties or are unsure about what their duties are. I know this because there are countless instances of heroic, proactive, intelligent police work happening across our city on a regular basis,” Monahan says in the video.
The video does not address the details of a fourth incident, which took place last Tuesday in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. In that video, a man films several officers as he repeatedly berates them. He’s warned repeatedly to stop and then eventually gets arrested for disorderly conduct.
Cynthia Conti-Cook, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society, called it “disappointing” that Monahan would defend an officer who used a banned chokehold, and called on the NYPD to release the body camera footage and let the public see the tactics used in Medina’s arrest.
“It’s disappointing that the NYPD would defend a ‘neighborhood’ officer who immediately escalated force into illegal chokehold to resolve a noise complaint ticket instead of sending a message to other officers and the community that this type of violence will not be tolerated.” she said.
Mayor de Blasio, meanwhile,said the videos disgusted him. “I just want to send a message to all my fellow New Yorkers: Respect for our police is absolutely necessary. It doesn’t matter what your views are, you have to respect police officers,” de Blasio said.
“They are here to protect us. You know when people are in trouble they want a PO to be there. And our officers work hard and they put themselves in harm’s way, and they deserve our respect.”
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch took the opportunity to criticize the mayor.
“The Mayor and the NYPD’s official responses to these videos are mostly significant for what they fail to address: the broader public safety policies that have created this hostile environment, and the massive disincentives for police officers who take action to address it,” he said.