Disturbing viral video may be the subject of a $1 million lawsuit after it showed a 19-year-old black man cooperating with his hands up when at least 10 New York City police officers swarmed a subway car the man was seated in and tackled him to the floor, according to the New York Post. Adrian Napier was charged only with fare evasion in the incident, and a judge has since thrown that charge out, the newspaper reported. The initial incident occurred Oct. 25, 2019, on the No. 4 train, which was stopped at the Franklin Avenue station in Brooklyn. Daniel Moritz-Rabson, a Newsweek reporter, tweeted a NYPD statement claiming cops were responding “to an alert for a male with a gun” at the time. “The investigation determined that report to be unfounded,” police said in the statement. Napier was, however, arrested anyway.
Elad Nehorai, a writer who recorded footage of the incident, said in a thread of Twitter messages at the time of the incident that “it seemed painfully clear that if anything had gone wrong, that young man might have easily been killed.” Nehorai said: “1. In the car, no one was scared of the young man. Everyone was terrified of the police. 2. Seeing the terror in his eyes will stay with me forever. 3. Seeing the anger in some of the officers’ eyes will as well.” New York police were shown on video ambushing the train, tackling Napier to the floor, and in the case of one cop outside the train, pointing a gun into the subway car. Napier said in a notice of intent to sue that officers kneed him “with such force that his back will never be the same,” according to the legal document the New York Post obtained.
“What the video doesn’t show is a credible witness alerting our officers to a man brandishing a gun,” NYPD Transit Chief Edward Delatorre said in a tweet Oct. 27, 2019. “When officers approached the man in question, he fled into a subway station and onto a train to escape. Minutes later, officers at the next station took him into custody.” To that Nehorai responded: “That fact is included in my thread. And as I mentioned, even aware that he might have a weapon, everyone on the train was terrified only of the police. That’s because he was fully cooperating while they aimed guns at a crowded train, then tackled him.”
Napier’s arrest is one of several following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s effort to deploy 500 added police officers in response to fare evasion. “This year we succeeded in making historic reforms to the MTA and provided significant new funding streams that will overhaul the system,” the governor said in a news release in June. “But the MTA is still plagued by problems of public safety, attacks against transit workers and persistent fare evasion – issues that have only worsened in recent years.”
The solution can not, however, be police brutality, and activists argue it too often is. As I reported for Atlanta Black Star last year, video of a Brooklyn subway fight showed an NYPD officer punching a black teen in the face in October, and similar footage showed four New York cops tackling a black candy vendor accused of illegally selling candy on a Harlem platform the next month.
Two churro vendors were also cited and removed from Brooklyn stations in November, inspiring multiple rallies in Brooklyn, where the incidents occurred. The obvious message that police have turned a blind eye to is that black and brown communities are tired of being subjected to cruelty in the name of public safety. “Increased police presence and ramped issuing of fines is an unacceptable war on the poor, largely IBPOC (Indigenous, black and people of color),” the activist organization Decolonize This Place tweeted in November. “It’s also an MTA predatory revenue generator like traffic tickets to pay bills.”