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NYPD Cop in Protester-Shoving Left Trail of Rough Policing Complaints in Brownsville

Dounya Zayer testifies before the state attorney general about an NYPD officer shoving her to the ground.
Dounya Zayer testifies before State Attorney General Letitia James about an NYPD officer shoving her to the ground during an anti-police brutality protest in Brooklyn.
Screengrab/@zayer_dounya/Twitter

Ahead of Memorial Day Weekend, neighborhood chatter swirled about a quarantine party set for the Marcus Garvey Village Apartments in Brownsville — and about a massive mobilization planned by the 73rd Precinct in response.

After convincing residents to cancel the festivities, Assemblymember Latrice Walker and City Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel visited Bristol Street that Saturday and found a small group hanging out peacefully.

Then police arrived.

Deputy Inspector Craig Edelman, the commanding officer of the precinct, and Officer Vincent D’Andraia, his driver, suddenly showed up with a crew of plainclothes cops, the two Brooklyn elected officials said.

Within minutes, D’Andraia rushed up on a young man allegedly smoking a joint, Walker and Ampry-Samuel told THE CITY.

“D’Andraia goes over, snatches the blunt and roughs [him] up — and it was like right in our faces,” said Walker.

Ampry-Samuel said D’Andraia rifled through the young man’s pockets and grilled him as other officers massed.

“We’re like, ‘Are you kidding me?! No one’s doing anything! Why are you doing this?’” Ampry-Samuel recalled last week. “And Edelman said, ‘They have to learn how to respect us.’”

The Marcus Garvey Apartments in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
The Marcus Garvey Apartments in Brownsville, Brooklyn
Yoav Gonen/THE CITY

Ampry-Samuel deemed the incident the last straw after more than a year of community complaints about aggressive, over-policing by the 73rd Precinct under Edelman — including by D’Andraia.

“I called the mayor and said, ‘You have to do something about this,’” she said.

Six days later, cellphone video of D’Andraia allegedly shoving 20-year-old Dounya Zayer on the first night of anti-police brutality protests in New York City — with a white-shirted supervisor nearby identified in news accounts as Edelman — went viral.

D’Andraia was suspended without pay a week after the May 29 incident, while Edelman was transferred out of the 73rd Precinct and assigned to the Gun Violence Suppression Division, according to the NYPD.

On June 9, with police actions under intense national scrutiny following the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, D’Andraia was charged with misdemeanor assault and other offenses by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. His next court date is slated for Oct. 15.

‘Past Complaints’

On Friday, newly released records showed D’Andraia has been the target of five complaints of misconduct, containing 11 separate allegations, since he joined the NYPD in January 2015.

Records provided under public disclosure law by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a city-appointed police watchdog that refers cases for trial at the NYPD, show three allegations related to use of force in 2016 were unsubstantiated. One case was closed pending litigation, and the alleged victim in another case was uncooperative.

D’Andraia was exonerated in two cases last year involving a total three allegations of abuse of authority during vehicle stops.

But the remaining three allegations of abuse of authority were substantiated for a stop-and-frisk incident involving a vehicle stop on March 12, 2019. D’Andraia was disciplined with “formalized training,” the files show.

The records released by the CCRB also document three complaints filed against Edelman between 2013 and 2016, constituting nine allegations of wrongdoing.

He was exonerated for the lone 2016 incident, and a victim wasn’t identified for three allegations tied to one complaint.

Of the five allegations for the remaining case, two were substantiated by the CCRB — both relating to a stop-and-frisk in May 2013 that DNAInfo later reported had occurred at 2 a.m. inside a Brooklyn public housing development.

Edelman, then a lieutenant, was found not guilty at an internal NYPD trial and faced no discipline, records show.

The Police Benevolent Association referred questions about D’Andraia’s complaint history to his attorney, Stephen Worth. Worth didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Captains Endowment Association didn’t immediately respond to an email sent late Friday asking about Edelman’s complaint history.

‘Where Are the Good Cops?’

The CCRB records emerged two days after Zayer delivered emotional testimony during an online hearing organized by State Attorney General Letitia James, speaking about the injuries she suffered on May 29 near Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Video of the incident showed Zayer ordered off the street by a stocky police officer as she’s walking backward — and then being shoved forcefully with two hands when she asks him why.

None of the police personnel who witnessed the incident appears to break stride, the video shows, even as a fallen Zayer clutches the back of her head.

At one point during her testimony, Zayer expressed frustration when James said the behavior of the cops wasn’t representative of all police.

“I’ve seen many other protesters be severely injured, and again, nobody reacts when the protester gets injured,” Zayer responded. “I understand there are good cops. But where was the good cop to help me? Where was the good cop for George Floyd?

“Where are the good cops that I keep hearing of?”

Zayer’s lawyer, Tahanie Aboushi, said she’s planning to file a notice of claim — a prelude to a lawsuit — against the city on her client’s behalf.

“We’re keeping an eye on how the Brooklyn DA is going to be handling the matter as well,” Aboushi said.

‘As Safe as Brooklyn Heights’

At his State of the NYPD speech on Jan. 23, 2019, then-Police Commissioner James O’Neill highlighted a half-dozen precincts where the rate of violent crime was at least twice the rate for the rest of the city.

The 73rd Precinct, he said, had the third-highest rate of violent crime in the city — including the second-highest murder rate and the highest shooting rate.

“Brownsville can and should be as safe as Brooklyn Heights,” O’Neill said that day. “How we get there is the next evolution of policing in New York. That means continuing to fight — in partnership — for every block, in every neighborhood, every day.”

The NYPD wouldn’t say when Edelman was named precinct commander, but online postings and community leaders indicate it was in early 2019 — a year with some challenging moments.

Novice cops from the 73rd Precinct were among those that passersby drenched with water last summer, during a spate of similar incidents across the city, according to the New York Post.

In July 2019, one person was killed and at least 11 others were injured when gunfire erupted at an annual outdoor gathering in Brownsville known as Old Timers Day. More than 100 officers were on duty at the party at the time, The New York Times reported.

And in October 2019, a 33-year-old schizophrenic man named Kwesi Ashun was shot and killed by police in Brownsville after he intervened in an arrest by allegedly slamming an officer in the head with a metal chair.

Ashun’s family reported a long history of unsuccessfully seeking help to deal with his mental illness.

The NYPD didn’t respond to a request for an interview about policing in the 73rd Precinct.

Crimes Down, Force Up

By the end of 2019, reported incidents in the seven major crime categories tracked by the NYPD fell by a total of 8% in the precinct compared to the previous year — driven largely by reductions in robberies and grand larcenies, department data shows.

Misdemeanor offenses dropped by over 10% that year, according to the data, while the number of violations issued climbed by 8%.

Meanwhile, use-of-force incidents and complaints filed with the Civilian Complaint Review Board both increased.

The NYPD self-reported a 33% hike in use of force by 73rd Precinct cops in 2019. The 150 incidents included 60 that resulted in injuries to civilians.

Complaints to the CCRB rose by 24% for the precinct last year, compared to 2018, reaching 148. This year, the number of complaints filed — on issues of force, abuse of authority and discourtesy — is on track to surpass the 2019 figure, data shows.

Anthony Newerls, president of the 73rd Precinct Community Council, said he’s fielded a significant number of complaints from teens and young men, largely stemming from allegations of over-aggressive policing — including being hauled to the East New York Avenue station house but not being charged with a crime.

Newerls said since Edelman’s arrival as precinct commander, “absolutely more police incidents have been reported to the precinct council.”

“More than it should be,” he added.

‘Larger Than Life’

Asked for comment, an NYPD spokesperson referred to public statements made by Police Commissioner Dermot Shea on June 5, where he characterized the shoving of the protester and other incidents of apparent excessive force during the protests as “disturbing” and “counter to the principles of NYPD training.”

“The actions by these officers stand apart from the restrained work of the thousands of other officers who have worked tirelessly to protect those who are peacefully protesting and keep all New Yorkers safe,” Shea said.

Longtime Brownsville resident Daniel Goodine, director of Men Elevating Leadership Inc., a local mentorship group, said he’s had good and bad experiences with Edelman.

After a fist-fight at Marcus Garvey Village apartments last month between civilians and police, Edelman sought help getting back equipment that had been left at the scene, Goodine said.

“It’s ‘we’ when you need us,” Goodine said of their relationship. But at other times, “it’s ‘you.’”

Goodine also recalled a memorial service on Tapscott Street for a young man — an event he said Edelman greeted with a flood of cops and a helicopter hovering overhead.

“His stature was short, but his demeanor was larger than life,” Goodine said of Edelman. “He knew he had everybody behind him to do whatever he needed to be done. And sometimes it was done heavy. Too heavy.”

Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel
Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel (D-Brooklyn)
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Ampry-Samuel said D’Andraia would often antagonize young people he saw drinking out of plastic cups by snatching the containers and pouring them out without bothering to check what was inside.

Worth, his lawyer, denied the allegation. He also denied that D’Andraia aggressively searched or frisked anyone at the Memorial Day weekend gathering.

After that incident, Ampry-Samuel said the mayor told her Shea had agreed to talk to Edelman about his policing tactics.

“For me, it wasn’t enough,” said Ampry-Samuel. “But by then, the very next week, is when we saw what we saw.”

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