NYPD officer seen in video shoving woman to ground is charged with assault

Vincent D'Andraia has been charged with assault, criminal mischief, harassment and menacing in the May 29 incident at a George Floyd protest in Brooklyn.

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By Janelle Griffith

A New York City police officer who was seen in a video shoving a woman to the ground at a George Floyd protest in Brooklyn on May 29 is facing multiple charges, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office said.

Officer Vincent D'Andraia turned himself in at the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn on Tuesday. He is charged with misdemeanor assault, criminal mischief, harassment and menacing in the incident the city's police commissioner Dermot Shea has described as "troubling" and "disturbing."

He is the first city police officer in New York to face arrest over his conduct during the large protests that have followed since Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after a white officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes in Minneapolis during an arrest.

"I fully support the long-held American tradition of non-violent protest," District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement, adding that he "cannot tolerate the use of excessive force against anyone exercising this Constitutionally guaranteed right. This is especially true of those who are sworn to protect us and uphold the law."

Gonzalez said he is "deeply troubled by this unnecessary assault" and "will now seek to hold this defendant accountable."

D'Andraia, 28, who lives in Holbrook on Long Island, could not immediately be reached for comment. He reports to the 73rd Precinct, which includes Brownsville, a neighborhood in Brooklyn.

He did not enter a plea at his arraignment hearing in criminal court in Brooklyn, where he was released without bail and ordered to stay away from the woman he shoved, Dounya Zayer. He is next due in court on Oct. 15. His attorney, Stephen Worth, did not return requests for comment.

In a statement released late Friday, the police commissioner said that D'Andraia and another officer involved in a separate incident on May 30 had been suspended without pay. Shea did not identify the officers. The second officer, who has not been named publicly, was recorded pulling down a man's face mask and then spraying the man in the face with pepper spray during a protest in Brooklyn.

D'Andraia's supervisor, Deputy Inspector Craig Edelman, the precinct commander, would also be transferred as a result of the incident, the commissioner said.

Both suspensions came after the department's Internal Affairs Bureau concluded investigations into the incidents. Shea said the cases have been referred to a Department Advocate for disciplinary action.

"While the investigations have to play out, based on the severity of what we saw, it is appropriate and necessary to assure the public that there will be transparency during the disciplinary process," Shea said in his statement Friday.

He added that the incidents "run counter to the principles of NYPD training, as well as our mission of public safety."

Zayer, 20, has said she was standing in the street protesting peacefully on the night of May 29 when, without provocation, an officer walked up to her and told her to get out of the street. She said she asked why and that the officer then shoved her and called her a "stupid f------ b----."

The district attorney's office said the incident occurred at approximately 8:44 p.m. near the Barclays Center. D'Andraia was walking with a contingent of police officers assigned to monitor a large crowd of demonstrators.

D'Andraia allegedly smacked Zayer's cell phone out of her hand and violently shoved her to the ground, according to investigators.

"She can be seen rolling on the street and into a curb," the district attorney's statement said. "Meanwhile, the defendant and fellow officers can be seen to continue walking."

Video of the encounter quickly spread across social media.

At a news conference last Tuesday near where the incident occurred, Zayer said she was shoved with such force that she flew out of her shoes, slamming her head onto the street.

"I am in pain. My head hurts. I haven't slept in three days. And I cannot stop throwing up," she said. "But I am trying everything in my power to hold myself together for the people who are depending on me to speak on the situation."

Zayer said she was hospitalized and treated for a seizure and a concussion.

"He did this in front of his lieutenant and multiple other officers who watched me hit the ground. One even looked back to make sure I was still on the ground, and they continued walking," Zayer said. "Not one officer tried to help me, and not one officer tried to stop the officer who assaulted me."

Zayer's lawyer, Tahani Aboushi, told NBC News on Tuesday that although D'Andraia has been arrested and charged, she and her client "are cautiously optimistic and justice remains to be seen."

"His commander Craig Edelman who watched the assault is just as culpable," Aboushi said. "We're very concerned that the NYPD has only chosen to transfer Edelman instead of holding him accountable."

Aboushi said Zayer "is having a very difficult time" and is still experiencing back and shoulder pain and has been vomiting often.

In recent weeks, New York police officers have repeatedly been accused of misconduct against protesters, including driving into a crowd and using excessive force to push them back.

Shea apologized at a news conference on Thursday for any instances of misconduct his officers had committed. He also said anti-police rhetoric has raised tension in the city.

"It encourages fighting the police during lawful arrests, and while all this is going on, we hear silence from so many of our elected officials, it's sickening," Shea said.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, which represents about 24,000 active officers, in a statement Tuesday took aim at the mayor and department leadership.

"Once again, Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD brass are sacrificing cops to save their own skin," Lynch said. "They created the failed strategy for managing these demonstrations."

Lynch added: "They sent police officers out to do the job with no support and no clear plan. They should be the ones facing this mob-rule justice."

Representative Yvette Clarke, a Democrat whose district includes Brownsville, said she hoped the investigations lead to the firings of D’Andraia and Edelman.

"Violence like we witnessed by Officer D’Andraia can escalate to murder," she said. "That’s too scary a reality that's already stolen too many lives."