Nassau County police officers allegedly beat a 20-year-old Westbury man when he tried to record a video of the incident after they pulled his car over last month, according to his attorneys.
Kyle Howell said he started recording the undercover officers with his cell phone after they told him he was stopped for having a cracked windshield. The video cut out after he reached for his paycheck that blew away when they opened his car door on April 25.
“Next thing I knew I had a knee to the face,” Howell—who wore sunglasses to hide broken blood vessels in both eyes—told reporters Tuesday during a news conference at his attorney’s Garden City office. “After that, I don’t remember much.”
His lawyer, Amy Marion, said that she filed a notice of claim on Monday, the first step in filing a lawsuit against the department, seeking unspecified damages. A police spokeswoman declined to comment, citing department policy on pending litigation. A spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said her office is investigating the allegations.
Although the video Howell tried to record was cut short, his attorneys said they recovered another video of the alleged police brutality from a nearby surveillance camera. Another cell phone video Howell said he made when he was stopped by police in January is in the hands of investigators, his attorneys added.
“One of these officers that were a part of the attack threatened that he was physically going to force me to stop using my cell phone to record [them] anytime I was pulled over,” Howell said of the prior recording. “It’s the only protection that I have against them.”
His family added that he’s been pulled over more than a dozen times in the past 18 months, which they characterized as excessive. His lawyer said that many of those stops included vehicle searches that ended in minor traffic violations. Howell said he pleaded guilty to petit larceny and marijuana possession two years ago.
He pleaded not guilty to the latest charges, which include possession of cocaine, marijuana possession, resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, driving with a broken windshield, speeding and tampering with evidence. The officers alleged that he was trying to swallow marijuana, but his attorneys said he was only chewing gum.
He neither assaulted the officers nor had drugs on him, his lawyers maintained. He was released on $10,000 bail and is due back in criminal court Tuesday. His outraged parents want the charges dropped.
Howell, a motorcycle shop worker, said he suffered three broken bones in his face and has surgery scheduled to fix his eye.
Nassau Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) issued a statement saying that she was shocked after watching the video.
“I urge the district attorney and NCPD’s internal affairs officials to conduct the most thorough investigation of this highly disturbing incident,” she said. “If it is confirmed that the two police officers’ actions were wrongful and unwarranted, I will call for the maximum disciplinary measures and criminal penalties available.”