Sept. 16, 2021 By Christian Murray
A Queens grand jury cleared a former NYPD officer Tuesday who faced charges under New York’s anti-chokehold law stemming from an incident on Rockaway Beach last year.
The grand jury considering charges against former Police Officer David Afanador “found no true bill and declined to indict,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced Sept. 14.
Afanador, who left the NYPD earlier this year following separate legal issues, was charged with aggravated strangulation by Katz after being filmed putting a man in an apparent chokehold on the Rockaway boardwalk at around 9 a.m. on Sunday, June 21, 2020.
The footage shows him wrapping his arm around the neck of Ricky Bellevue, a 35-year-old Black man, who appears to lose consciousness.
The incident took place at around the same time that Black Lives Matter protests were erupting across the nation — including in New York City — in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis cop.
Afanador was suspended by the NYPD as a result of the incident. Katz prosecuted him based on a state law prohibiting police chokeholds that went into effect a week prior to the incident. The law made such chokeholds a felony, punishable by up to 7 years in prison.
The incident stemmed from an argument three men got into with several police officers on the boardwalk.
The men proceeded to taunt and heckle the cops and then started to record the reaction of the officers. Bellevue, one of the three men, then asked the officers if they were scared and appeared to grab a can from a trash receptacle.
That’s when four officers tackled Bellevue, including Afanador, who allegedly wrapped his arm around Bellevue’s neck and pinned him to the ground.
Afanador, based on video footage, continued the alleged chokehold as other officers handcuffed Bellevue. The video recording then shows Bellevue’s body go limp and him losing consciousness.
Katz, in making the announcement Tuesday, said she would work to make the minutes of the proceedings public in the interest of transparency.
“While the law prohibits me from discussing the proceedings that took place in front of the grand jury, in the interest of transparency I am moving to have the minutes of the grand jury unsealed,” Katz said.
Afanador has been subject to other complaints where he has been accused of police brutality.
He allegedly pistol-whipped a Black 16-year-old in 2014, breaking two of his teeth during a marijuana arrest. He was suspended for one month but was acquitted, according to records with the NYPD’s Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Earlier this year, according to Gothamist, Afanador was arrested for allegedly firing his pistol into the Atlantic Ocean. He was suspended without pay, and resigned from the NYPD in March.