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NYPD disciplines officer for using chokehold

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[The video of the incident is very graphic and is included at the conclusion of this article.]

The NYPD suspended an officer without pay after a “disturbing apparent chokehold incident in Queens.”

What we know:

  • Commissioner Dermot Shea announced the disciplinary action after an Internal Affairs Bureau investigation. “While a full investigation is still underway, there is no question in my mind that this immediate action is necessary,” Shea said on Sunday.
  • The incident occurred on Sunday morning on a boardwalk in the Rockaway section of Queens. There is video footage from police body cam as well as a video shot by one of the men involved. The body cam footage released by the NYPD shows the moments before the incident. Police responded to reports of a disorderly group. The three men on camera make conversation with the officers and shout insults at them. One man says “I’ll throw sh*t in your face” and “touch any of my boys and you’ll be dead”. One of the other men is tries to de-escalate the situation.
  • On the video shot by one of the men involved, the officers are tackle a black man to the ground and arrest him. One officer has his arm around the man’s neck, clearly in a chokehold. Bystanders yell “He’s choking him”. The arrested man, whose name has not been released, was taken to a nearby hospital and suffered a laceration.
  • Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz made a statement on Sunday, saying “There must be zero tolerance for police misconduct . . . We take these allegations very seriously and an active investigation is underway.” Lori Zeno, an attorney representing the unnamed man, called for the officer who used the chokehold to be fired. She said her client faces charges of disorderly conduct, obstructing justice, and resisting arrest.
  • The New York City Council passed a package of police reforms last week, including an official ban on chokeholds. The NYPD initially banned chokeholds in 1993. A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said “The video is very concerning, We’re glad the NYPD is immediately launching an investigation to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Police forces face heightened scrutiny following the deaths of several unarmed black people at the hands of the police, including George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and Breonna Taylor. This incident in New York is particularly concerning because former NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner with a chokehold just six years ago. Many protests around the country are calling for officials to defund or even disband the police.

GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black Alerts and the host of Boss Mornings and Unmuted Nation. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

Crime

Classes canceled at Howard University as US Government investigates ransomware cyberattack

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Howard University officials along with leading cyber experts are trying to assess what has been compromised in an active ransomware, cyberattack on the HBCU campus. Officials have deemed the attack criminal.

What We Know:

  • Monday, the university issued a statement to faculty and students that “the service disruption was caused by a ransomware cyberattack against the university.”
  • Classes have been canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Students have been notified that online and hybrid classes will remain canceled and only essential staff will be allowed on campus. All in-person undergraduate, graduate, professional, and clinical experiential courses will resume as scheduled on Wednesday.
  • A ransomware attack can be triggered by simple, everyday activity. Opening a unintended link inside of can lead to a cyberattack.  Computer, tablet and phone users are encouraged to change their passwords and security questions regularly.

Howard University is home to several notable high profile Black alumni such as Chadwick Boseman and Phylicia Rashad.

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Crime

New Orleans 911 Operator Wanted After Allegedly Disconnecting Calls on Purpose

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A New Orleans 911 operator deliberately disconnected emergency calls without obtaining necessary information or relaying the callers’ emergencies to other dispatchers, and she is now facing arrest, according to authorities.

What We Know:

  • Precious Stephens, 25, is wanted on a count of malfeasance in office, and she remained at large Thursday, police said. She has been fired from her job as a 911 operator, officials said.

“(The district) has and will continue to cooperate with the … investigation into this matter and dedicated to providing any and all assistance to aid in (the) efforts.”

  • Stephens worked for the Orleans Parish Communication District, which dispatches first responders to 911 calls. On Aug. 24, the district reported to police that Stephens had deliberately disconnected 911 calls without obtaining vital information or informing other dispatchers about the callers who were in need of help.  The district conducted an investigation into the quality of a random set of calls when they detected the problems with Stephens during her shifts Aug. 20 and Aug. 21, officials said.  A statement from the district highlighted how its own internal protocols identified the issues with Stephens, who was immediately turned over to police and dismissed from her post.

Police asked anyone who knows where Stephens is to call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111. Tipsters may be eligible for a cash reward.

Louisiana law defines malfeasance in office as unlawfully performing a job in public service. It can carry up to five years in prison.

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Crime

R&B Star R. Kelly Jurors Summoned for Sex Trafficking Trial

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The first phase of R. Kelly‘s trial began on Aug. 9 with a jury selection after several delays.

What We Know:

  • U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly asked potential jurors if they could keep an open mind about Kelly as he faces charges for abusing women and girls for nearly two decades. Donnelly also reminded jurors that Kelly was presumed innocent, so they should not feel influenced by any bad publicity the singer experienced because of the accusations.
  • Due to pandemic restrictions, the event took place online. Because of this, Kelly and the jurors faced difficulty popping up on the screen and the audio cut off at times.
  • During the trial, jurors will expect to hear testimonies from several of Kelly’s accusers. In addition, a judge ruled that officials may only use the women’s first names. Currently, Kelly faces sex trafficking charges. Scrutiny around Kelly’s sexual behavior has followed him for decades. These include charges for child pornography. Alongside the sex-trafficking case in New York, Kelly also faces sex-related charges against him in Illinois and Minnesota.
  • In addition, prosecutors might provide evidence that Kelly schemed with others to buy a fake ID for late R&B singer Aaliyah. In 1994, when Aaliyah was only 15, Kelly married and began a sexual relationship with her; it is also speculated he impregnated her. Prosecutors believe he married her so that she could not testify against him.
  • In regards to his sex-trafficking trial, Kelly denies any wrongdoing; he has pleaded not guilty to leading a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards, and other employees who recruited women and girls for sex. Concerning the criminal enterprise, federal prosecutors reported the group found victims at concerts and other venues. After recruiting the women and children, they would make travel arrangements so they could meet with Kelly. Kelly’s lawyers claimed the victims were “groupies” who showed up at his concerts and “were dying to be with” Kelly.

The case is scheduled to officially begin on Aug. 18 with opening statements.

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