GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (AP) — A suburban New York man was repeatedly kicked and punched by two police officers while being arrested during a traffic stop last month on Long Island, according to the man's attorneys, who released a video Tuesday depicting the encounter.
The Nassau County district attorney's office has started an investigation, according to a spokesman, and the officers are now the subject of an internal affairs probe, officials said.
Kyle Howell, 20, of Westbury, was arrested April 25, on charges including marijuana possession, tampering with evidence and resisting arrest following a traffic stop near his home, according to court documents. He has pleaded not guilty, but his attorneys and family said they are seeking to have the charges dropped.
On Monday, Howell's attorneys filed a notice of claim, the first step in a process leading to a civil lawsuit against the county, its police officers and the county's only public hospital.
At a news conference Tuesday at his attorney's office, Howell said that after officers stopped him, he complied with a request to show his license. He said one of the officers then opened his passenger side door and when his paycheck began to fly out of the vehicle, he attempted to grab it.
"The next thing you know, I got a knee to face, and then the next thing I remember, I was in the hospital," he told reporters.
The video, which attorneys obtained from a nearby business, depicts the two officers stopping Howell's vehicle and speaking with him briefly. Howell is apparently the only person in the car, but the view of him is obscured by a reflection off the windshield. One officer is shown standing at the driver's side door while the second leaves his position from the passenger side door and heads toward the rear of the vehicle.
For an unexplained reason, that officer then pivots from behind the car and returns to the open passenger side door and appears to enter the vehicle. Both officers are then seen punching and kicking someone inside the vehicle.
A police spokesman declined to comment on the allegations, citing pending litigation. Court documents filed against Howell allege he initially refused to provide his identification. The police report says he then reached into the glove compartment and grabbed a bag of marijuana and put it in his mouth. That's when officers said "a violent struggle ensued as officers attempted to retrieve the evidence."
Howell denied at Tuesday's news conference that he had tried to swallow a bag of marijuana. Police also charged Howell with cocaine possession, an allegation he also denied.
Howell's mother, Joan, said in a statement that her son was a victim of racial profiling by police.
"I am greatly angered, I am outraged, appalled that racial profiling is alive and well in our neighborhoods," she said. "This is perpetuated in our black communities today and every day."
She added: "Has change really come to America? If there was no video, we would have no voice."
When challenged on the profiling allegation, attorney Amy Marion said Joan Howell and her son had repeatedly been stopped for traffic violations in recent years. Kyle Howell has prior convictions for marijuana possession and petit larceny.
Marion added of the video: "I don't know that there's any explanation that would ever in any way justify this."
Howell's right eye was bloodshot during the news conference and his attorney said he may require surgery to repair the damage.