A young woman shoved violently to the ground by a Brooklyn cop during police brutality protests in May filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Monday against the officer, his supervisor, the NYPD and the city.
Video of Dounya Zayer being flung to the pavement by Officer Vincent D’Andraia went viral as the city and country experienced daily demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police. The Brooklyn incident ignited further calls for police accountability in New York.
As seen in the footage, D’Andraia’s then-supervisor, Deputy Inspector Craig Edelman, as well as other cops — named as 10 John and Jane Does in the suit — did nothing after witnessing the encounter.
Zayer “suffered and continues to suffer significant severe physical and emotional injuries, including possibly requiring surgery, disfigurement, permanent disability and inability to walk and ongoing treatment,” according to the suit, filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
The 21-year-old Queens resident wants to hold the city, the cops on the scene and their department accountable for alleged excessive force, assault and free speech violations, according to the suit.
Zayer has said she fears of even leaving her home — much less exercising her right to protest.
Still, she told THE CITY Monday: “I’m going to fight in every single way I know how and if I lose I’m going to keep fighting somehow. This lawsuit is only important to me because it shows I haven’t given up.”
Since May, numerous other allegations of police brutality against protesters in the city have been documented via social media, as well as during a two-day hearing by State Attorney General Letitia James.
A September report by Human Rights Watch, which cited 61 injuries during one Bronx protest, accused the NYPD of “serious violations of international human rights law.”
In October, the Legal Aid Society and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a federal suit against Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD leadership and several officers on behalf of a group of protesters.
Zayer’s lawsuit cites reporting by THE CITY showing that both Edelman and D’Andraia had been previously criticized by elected officials as well as local community members for over-aggressive policing before the May 29 incident.
The two cops have faced accusations of misconduct made to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, dating back to 2013. While the board substantiated some allegations against both men, only D’Andraia was ever disciplined. He received “formalized training” following a vehicle stop, CCRB records show.
After shoving Zayer, D’Andraia was suspended without pay and charged by the Brooklyn district attorney with misdemeanor assault and other offenses. His next hearing is scheduled for April 2021.
Edelman, meanwhile, was transferred to a high-profile position at the citywide gun unit.
‘Need to See Actions’
Zayer’s lawyer, Tahanie Aboushi, told THE CITY that while she lauds the charges against D’Andraia, the city’s follow-through on promises of police accountability is not coming fast enough for her client and others like her.
“You can get up in a press conference and say, ‘I’m concerned,’ but as the [NYPD] commissioner, as a mayor, as our elected officials, what is actually being done here? So we’re past words, we need to see actions,” said Aboushi, who is running for Manhattan district attorney.
The NYPD declined comment, citing pending litigation. The city Law Department and Stephen Worth, D’Andrea’s lawyer, did not respond to requests for comment. An attorney for Edelman could not immediately be found.
Despite facing “severe and permanent physical and psychological injuries,” such as blackouts and constant pain, Zayer hopes to become a civil right attorney.
“If I can’t get justice for myself, I’d love to grow up and help other people get justice,” she said.
“I’m happy that I’m taking steps into my own hands and filing a suit against them,” Zayer added. “But money is never going to make it OK. I would have been much happier if the city did something. If they had lost their jobs if they weren’t still capable of doing what they did to me to other people.”