NEW YORK — Protesters filed more than $55 million in notices of claim with New York City about lawsuit plans over police actions during ongoing demonstrations, according to documents obtained by PIX11 on Wednesday.
Though NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said no protesters were seriously injured, records from the city Comptroller’s Office show men and women left demonstrations spurred by the death of George Floyd with broken arms, a fractured eye socket, a concussion, nerve damage and deep lacerations.
“We will review the merit of these claims if and when we are served,” an NYPD spokesperson said.
Many of the more violent arrests happened after a curfew was instituted on June 1, but a number of the notices of claim are connected with the early days of the protests after Floyd’s May 25 death at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
In Manhattan, Ethan W. Cyr and others, reminded of the video of an officer kneeling on Floyd, begged police to get off a protester on May 30. Cyr said an officer hit him with a baton in response, breaking his arm.
Days later on June 2, the first night of the 8 p.m. curfew, an exhausted Cyr was near 67th Street and Park Avenue after about seven hours of marching. An officer told him to move faster, but Cyr couldn’t.
In documents, Cyr alleged he was “grabbed without provocation by NYPD officers, who threw him to the ground.”
Despite his broken arm, Cyr said he was cuffed with his hands behind his back.
Two of the notices of claim were filed by men in the crowd when an NYPD vehicle rammed into protesters on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and St. Mark on May 30. One man’s arm was fractured, records show. Another man suffered “serious physical injuries to his ankles and leg, along with scrapes and bruises throughout his body.”
Huascar Benoit was in front of Long Island University Brooklyn on May 31 when he said one officer shoved him with a shield and another hit him in the face with a baton. Benoit fell to the ground where he said he was beaten. Another officer allegedly maced Benoit as he stood up.
Benoit suffered a fractured eye socket.
Alexander Fermin and Mia Boday were taken into custody on the Upper East Side on the night of June 2. Boday was “was struck in the throat with a baton by an NYPD officer” and then hit again when she was on the ground, according to her notice of claim.
She’s also listed as a witness for what happened to Fermin. He called an officer a “fascist pig” and moved into the crowd to be further away from police, but then they began arresting people.
“I felt my clothes rip off in an instant and in a moment I was on the ground, slammed to the ground” he said.
A delivery man, who was exempt from the curfew, also filed a notice of claim after police took him into custody the night of June 4.
“I am working as a delivery person for Caviar, look at my phone, I have orders to fill,” he told police, according to records from the Comptroller’s Office.
Officers handcuffed Kevin Urena regardless. He was put in a cell with about 15 other detainees. Most of them were not wearing masks. Urena was released after about two hours in custody.
Two people were arrested near 136th Street and Brook Avenue in the Bronx on June 4. Mohamed Elsherbiny was on a crutch for a sprained ankle when police allegedly kicked the crutch away, slammed him into the ground and stomped on his back.
Elsherbiny said he was forced to stand for hours, without his crutch, before he was processed. His crutch was not returned after he was issued a criminal court summons.
The impending lawsuits aren’t the only issues the city and the NYPD are dealing with. The Civilian Complaint Review Board has received more than 700 complaints about NYPD misconduct over the course of protests in the city.
Once the notices of claim move beyond the Comptroller’s Office and escalate into lawsuits, they’ll be reviewed by the city’s Law Department.
“These are allegations in claims with the comptroller,” a spokesperson for the city’s Law Department said. “We evaluate lawsuits based on the legal merits. We will not comment before all the facts are in.”
Being sued is not unusual for the NYPD. Every year, taxpayer dollars pay out millions to victims of alleged police brutality. NYPD lawsuits and claims reached more than $300 million in 2017.
The NYPD should look closely at officers named in multiple lawsuits, retired NYPD Detective Graham Weatherspoon said.
A Bronx narcotics detective has been named in at least 40 lawsuits. The department settled 17 of the lawsuits against the officer and paid out $495,000.
“As Commissioner Shea moves forward, I hope he will take the steps to get rid of those officers costing the city innumerable amount of money annually,” Weatherspoon said.
New York Attorney General Letitia James was tapped on May 30 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to investigate police-protester interactions.
“We take this investigation and its underlying causes very seriously,” James said before hearing testimony from protesters on Wednesday. “You have my commitment that we will act independently and transparently to seek answers, to ensure that the truth is laid bare and to demand accountability for any wrongdoing.”
PIX11’s Nicole Johnson contributed to this report.