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Criminal Charges Dismissed for Cop Filmed Shoving Protester, in Restorative Justice Deal

Officer Vincent D’Andraia agreed to training, coaching and restitution — as urged by a woman injured during the George Floyd demonstrations in 2020.

SHARE Criminal Charges Dismissed for Cop Filmed Shoving Protester, in Restorative Justice Deal

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

The lone NYPD officer criminally charged in connection with use of force during the 2020 George Floyd protests will have the charges dismissed after he completed conflict-resolution training and other measures, according to a disposition reached Thursday.

That restorative justice program for Officer Vincent D’Andraia had been urged by his victim, Dounya Zayer — who hit her head on the pavement after the officer was seen forcefully shoving her backward to the ground, as depicted in a video widely viewed on social media.

The outcome in Brooklyn Criminal Court means the case against D’Andraia will be dismissed and sealed in six months if he stays out of trouble.

Prosecutors with the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said Zayer, who was 20 at the time of the incident, had chosen the restorative justice approach, focusing more on repairing harm than on doling out discipline. 

“Based on her beliefs, [she] went through the restorative justice process, which allowed the defendant to take the classes and to do what was necessary to make amends for what happened there,” Assistant District Attorney Daphney Gachette said in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Thursday.

As part of the deal, D’Andraia completed de-escalation and tactical awareness training through the NYPD, got conflict coaching and resolution training through a third party and had to pay  roughly $1,400 in restitution to Zayer, according to Brooklyn DA spokesperson Oren Yaniv.

The process was also supposed to include mediation, in which D’Andraia and Zayer would come together to talk face-to-face, but Gachette said that Zayer has since changed her mind about participating.

“The complainant no longer wishes to revictimize herself by speaking with the defendant. She no longer wishes to be in his company and is ready to move forward from this incident and try to move on with her life,” she said.

The disposition requires D’Andraia to abide by a six-month order of protection on behalf of Zayer.

D’Andraia and his attorney, Michael Martinez, of Worth, Longworth and London LLP, declined comment after the hearing.

Accountability

A Brooklyn law enforcement source said the resolution and penalty in the case were not unusual for third degree assault by a person with no prior criminal history.

Zayer and her attorney didn’t respond to requests for comment on the dismissal of the charges. But Zayer had told THE CITY in November 2020 that she was suffering from physical and emotional trauma months after the incident.

She also said she was struggling at the time with a paralyzing fear of leaving her Queens apartment and with frustration over the lack of accountability in her case.

Dounya Zayer addresses city officials about being thrown to the ground by an NYPD officer during a Black Lives Matter protest.

Screengrab/Dounya Zayer/Twitter

She filed a lawsuit against the NYPD and D’Andraia the following month, which was settled for $387,000 earlier this year under an agreement that compelled D’Andraia to pay $3,000 out of his own pocket as well.

The closure of the criminal case paves the way for the NYPD to complete its own disciplinary process against D’Andraia, which a spokesperson confirmed Thursday is still ongoing. The department’s Internal Affairs Bureau found in 2020 that D’Andraia used excessive force against a civilian, causing injury. 

Gachette noted in court that while Zayer is eager to move on, “She does recognize that it is now in the hands of the NYPD — and she hopes that they do the right thing.” 

Heavy Policing

The footage of D’Andraia using both arms to shove Zayer backward onto the street near the Barclays Center on May 29, 2020, was among the first signs of what was widely viewed as an aggressive NYPD response to the protests following the police killing of Floyd in Minnesota.

The viral video was followed in subsequent days by footage of police ramming an SUV into protesters who had blocked their path on a street in Brooklyn — as well as by video after video of officers using considerable force in making mass arrests of allegedly peaceful protesters.

The group Human Rights Watch determined that cops had even committed violations of international human rights laws in a major crackdown on June 4, 2020, in The Bronx.

The police and then-Mayor Bill de Blasio argued at the time that these protests were different from past demonstrations, and that a violent element within the crowds was provoking the heavy response by tossing bricks, bottles and — in at least one case — a Molotov cocktail.

As THE CITY reported earlier this week, Police Officer Michael Sher — who pulled down the mask and sunglasses of a protester who had both his arms up, and pepper sprayed him in the face — cited what he characterized as a chaotic crowd of protesters to justify his actions.

However, the NYPD administrative judge in Sher’s disciplinary trial noted that none of the video evidence in the case showed protesters acting violently or throwing objects.

With the police commissioner’s approval, Sher wasn’t penalized for the use of force, but was instead docked 10 vacation days for failing to report that he had deployed his pepper spray.

NYPD Probes

Out of a group of 64 videos of alleged police misconduct during the May and June 2020 protests that were collected by the New York Times later that year, the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau found that significant discipline was merited in just five of the cases — as reported last year by THE CITY.

D’Andraia, who was among the five, still has any potential discipline pending.

The penalty status for the remaining four personnel is varied: Officer Hanna Cottignies received the most significant consequences of the group, with a 31-day suspension for pepper spraying a group of bystanders as she was running by them.

Sgt. Majer Saleh retired in May 2022, ahead of the conclusion of his disciplinary case, according to records posted online by the group 50-a.org. Sher, who was also among the five, lost 10 vacation days. He lost 45 additional days and was put on one year’s probation for purposely dumping a protester’s phone in the sewer in May 2020.

As previously reported, Craig McGrath — who opened the door of a moving police vehicle, striking a protester with it — was also penalized with the loss of 10 vacation days.

CCRB records recently posted to 50-a.org show that McGrath told investigators he had opened the door in order to exit the unmarked police car to chase down an individual who allegedly threw a brick at the car on Classon Avenue in Brooklyn.

The investigators noted that McGrath said he didn’t know he struck a person until someone shared video of the incident with him. He had assumed the sound was an object thrown by protesters striking the vehicle, the report says.

The NYPD said an additional five officers out of the 64 in the videos received minor discipline after misconduct was substantiated.

Mayor Eric Adams campaigned last year on bolstering not just the NYPD’s crime-fighting capabilities but also on boosting accountability for officers who commit misconduct — including by speeding up the disciplinary process.

Asked for a status update on the accountability measures last month, Adams said he was reviewing a flow chart that NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell had provided his office.

“We’re going through it to find out where the bottleneck is located so we can expedite these cases at a more rapid pace,” he said at the time.

Asked last week for an update on those efforts, City Hall officials didn’t respond.

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