Prosecutors are dropping charges against 17-year-old Enrique Del Rosario related to assaulting a police officer after video contradicted their claims.
The incident took place at Brooklyn’s Puerto Rican Day parade on June 8. Dennis Flores, founder of the neighborhood police watchdog group El Grito De Sunset Park said police descended on the revelers in the evening, something that’s become expected. “We’ve been documenting this every year,” Flores told ThinkProgress. “The neighborhood gets flooded with police officers. Young kids are marching, waving flags, and cops are corraling them, pushing them around, like it’s a nuisance to have them out celebrating their culture.”
Flores’ group had several activists taping the police that day, a tactic that activists across the country have found useful for monitoring police. So they were able to capture Rosario’s arrest from multiple angles, a fact that would be crucial for proving his innocence. Photos and recordings can often mean the difference between conviction and exoneration.
Rosario wasn’t afilliated with El Grito, but he also happened to be filming when an officer shoved the woman standing next to him. In fact, Flores said that’s why he was targeted. Rosario’s lawyer Rebecca Heinegg said several officers then attacked Rosario, slamming him against the gate of a closed store and beating him with batons. “Basically, my client was a victim of a gang assault by the 72nd Precinct,” Heinegg told Max Jaeger for The Brooklyn Paper.
Once the attack started, Flores said, police began pushing people back and macing them to keep onlookers and cameras from seeing what was going on. Flores said that the injury police blamed Rosario for was caused by another cop. “This officer swung his nightstick and missed, hit another police officer across the head,” Flores said.
A grand jury decided not to prosecute Rosario for assaulting a cop in September, but he continued to face charges for resisting arrest and larceny until the District Attorney’s office offered to drop all charges as long as he stays clear of the law for six months.
The charges proved to be an economic burden to Rosario’s family, even though they were dropped. Rosario and his mother Wendy Tabarez had to attend eight court dates since he was beaten and arrested, costing wages and time off lost. For working people, an arrest can come at a high price, even if they are eventually found innocent.
Rosario’s camera was never recovered, and footage from NYPD police videographers seems to have disappeared, arousing Flores’ suspicion. “It’s not like his camera was just left on the street. They took it, and it never showed up in evidence.” Both Flores and Heinegg have tried to obtain NYPD footage of the events, but have been told it can’t be located.
“If we don’t have access to the cams the NYPD already uses, that’s how it’s going to be with the body cams,” Flores said. “How will these body cams ever work if this is how they deal with evidence?”