The 50th Precinct’s commanding officer had some choice words in the wake of a video that went viral over the weekend showing three of his police officers attempting to arrest a teenager over a stolen bike.
“You saw police work in action.” That’s what precinct deputy inspector Terence O’Toole said about a video that seems to show one officer pinned to the ground by Alfred Burns, 16, who was suffering blow after blow to the head from the right fist of a second officer near West 225th Street in Marble Hill around 9 a.m., Oct. 6.
Some who have watched it play out online feel the second officer used excessive force.
What the two-minute video circulating on social media and a viral video site doesn’t show, O’Toole said, was the altercation leading up to the arrest.
“There’s video of him taking the bike, then the store owner comes out to confront him and waves down the police officers,” he said. “As soon as the officers tell him, ‘You’re under arrest,’ he pushed the officer down and puts his hand over his throat.”
But by the time a crowd had gathered — and at least one spectator began filming with their smartphone — Burns’ left hand was only near the officer’s neck for a few seconds before spending the rest of the video using it to protect his head from the barrage of punches coming from the second officer, who O’Toole didn’t want to identify out of fear for that officer’s safety.
In that time, the officer threw 13 punches at Burns’ head before a third officer finally got involved and handcuffed Burns, who later was transported to North Central Bronx Hospital to get four stitches above his forehead.
“People fail to realize that police are allowed to use physical force,” O’Toole said. “It looks awful, but it’s lawful. If you are placed under arrest then you comply.”
None of the officers involved in the altercation have been placed on leave despite an internal affairs investigation into the case, O’Toole said, but they’re still taking some time off.
“Both officers are out sick, three officers were injured in the melee,” he said. “Just bruises, contusions, some minor stuff.”
O’Toole defended his officers saying Burns has been a problem for the New York Police Department in the past, reading off a long rap sheet of charges, arrests and even a pair of open warrants.
“He’s a scourge on the Bronx as it is at 16 years old,” O’Toole said. “This guy has his hands around an officer’s neck. Last time I checked, that is pretty dangerous. And he admits he stole the bike.”
And this ordeal likely wouldn’t be the last time Burns finds himself on the wrong side of the NYPD, O’Toole said, considering his list of prior arrests.
“He is going to fight with police for the rest of his life, guaranteed,” O’Toole said. “And the next cop that he encounters may have to shoot him because he is going to fail to comply. Because that is going to be his lifestyle forever.”
The precinct’s top cop also added that officers in the 5-0 were looking for a number of people shown in the crowd watching the incident, namely an unidentified man who tried to stop the officer on top of Burns from continuing to punch him, and a woman who can be heard screaming throughout the clip.
“Those people are subject to arrest if we can find them,” O’Toole said. “The voice that is screaming the most is his girlfriend, who showed up here and she may be getting arrested, too.”
If arrested, O’Toole said they’d likely be charged for interfering with an arrest, and — in the case of Burns’ girlfriend — inciting a riot with her screams.