Newly-uncovered surveillance footage shows a plainclothes cop lunge at a young man as he films a COVID-related arrest in East New York on April 29.
In the video, the cop corners Adegoke Atunbi against the wall of a deli, before grabbing him by the neck and slamming him to the shutters and on the ground near Sutter Avenue and Hemlock Street. The 31-year-old Queens resident told Brooklyn Paper he feels lucky to have survived the brutal encounter, especially given the police killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd on May 25.
“What happened to Floyd, could have easily happened to me,” said Atunbi. “I was thrown on the floor, my head was slammed on the ground, you have people on top of me, anything could have happened. You don’t know what’s going to happen, you’re on the floor you’re getting hit from left and right.”
Atunbi previously shared his first-person recording of the social-distancing-related arrest of another young man that late April evening, but the surge of protests following Floyd’s killing has made him angrier about his own recent experience with law enforcement in Brooklyn.
“With everything going on, you see when justice is delayed what happens,” he said. “People are angry at this point, people are frustrated.”
The new video, taken from a nearby bodega’s surveillance camera, also shows the local 75th Precinct’s commanding officer Deputy Inspector John Mastronardi — dressed in a maroon hoodie — holding Atunbi’s head as cops pull him to the ground.
Atunbi alleges that Mastronardi slammed his head against the pavement in the process, but other officers swarming to the arrest obscure a clear view.
The cop who attacked him wore a badge matching that of Sergeant Adnan Radoncic of the 75th precinct, who is named in at least six lawsuits between 2012 and 2018, four of which have combined to cost the city $433,000, according to the nonprofit Legal Aid Society’s database, CAPstat.
The 75th precinct, which has earned the distinction of being the most-sued precinct in the Five Boroughs, was named in 91 federal lawsuits between 2015 and June 2018, which totaled to cost taxpayers more than $9 million in settlements, according to the society’s tally.
Police charged Atunbi with disorderly conduct and violating Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive order for social distancing, and he has a ticket to appear before Brooklyn Supreme Court in August, although District Attorney Eric Gonzalez — who vowed in March not to prosecute low-level offenses amid the pandemic — might drop the charges.
A lawyer for Atunbi said that he plans to file a civil rights lawsuit with either state or federal court, and that they are also cooperating with an ongoing investigation of the incident by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent oversight agency of the NYPD.
“It’s vital that the police enforce laws including the laws around social distancing that’s race neutral and in a way that’s fair and equitable,” said Gabriel Harvis, a civil rights attorney for Atunbi. “We see selective enforcement that can’t be tolerated in a society that’s governed by the rule of law.”
The Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.