HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) — The NYPD has released bodycam footage showing the moments leading up to and including a police officer striking a woman who was allegedly interfering with an arrest in Harlem.
Earlier video showing the encounter sparked strong reactions from community activists and officers.
The bodycam footage starts with police arresting 22-year-old Elvin James, who was wanted in connection to an attempted murder.
Police say he was carrying a loaded illegal ghost gun at the time of his arrest, during which 19-year-old Tamani Crum approached the officers.
She is grabbed by Officer Kendo Kinsey, and the two get into a shoving match. Within seconds, Kinsey strikes the woman, knocking her to the ground.
“During this encounter, a female acquaintance of this individual began to interfere with the arrest, including striking one of the officers,” the NYPD said in a statement. “That officer fended off that interference and struck the woman with an open hand. The woman was placed under arrest for Obstructing Governmental Administration, remained conscious, and was transported to an area hospital at her request. Two additional females were similarly charged with interfering with the actions of police officers during this incident.”
Full NYPD bodycam footage (Warning: Contains profanity):
On Thursday, Mayor Eric Adams strongly defended the officer’s actions.
“We had a person that was wanted for attempted murder,” he said. “Attempted murder. Police officers found him. He was armed with a ghost gun in his belt. Those officers show great restraint. They didn’t discharge their weapons, they subdued him. While they were subduing him, a crowd came and attempted to disrupt the arrest. The young lady came, smacked a police officer. The police officer responded. I think those officers on the scene showed great restraint. They did what the system called for. They didn’t turn off their body cameras. That’s why we have footage of what happened. I am not going to tell police officers to go out, apprehend dangerous people, and then come later, when they did what they were supposed to do, and not say, ‘You protected the people of this city.’ Now, we’re going to do an investigation. We will look at the video. If there is a need to retrain, if there is a need to do other things, we are going to do that. But let’s be clear. They were arresting a person was being pursued for attempted murder. He was armed with a ghost gun in his belt, and people got in and interrupted while police were taking action. That’s just can’t happen. I’ll tell New Yorkers all the time, don’t endanger yourself and don’t endanger other officers, and don’t endanger the public. At a safe distance, you can video what the officers are doing. But you should never go inside a scene of apprehension. And if you look at the video, the young lady was inches away from the person who was armed with that gun. That action endangered those police officers. and you can’t do that as a civilian. And I take my hat off to those who apprehended the suspect, who showed great restraint, to do so without discharging their weapons.”
Crum was taken to the hospital and later charged with a misdemeanor obstructing arrest charge.
James faces several charges, including resisting arrest and criminal possession of a weapon.
“You know, it’s nerve-wracking situation for the detective in that this person had a loaded firearm on him,” Detectives Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo said. “And this individual tried to obstruct and distract the detective from the person that was in possession of the illegal loaded firearm.”
Dr. Rashwan Ray is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution with expertise with policing and racism in America.
“I think the distrust of law enforcement is a big factor here,” he said. “If you notice, there were many bystanders, people recording, people trying to intervene…Those sort of things fuel these particular interactions.”
In response to the public outcry, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell issued a statement saying she is “committed to transparency” and that she has “expedited the release of the officers’ body-worn camera footage.”
“The actions of the officer doesn’t help that situation,” Dr. Ray said. “I think a lot of people think that he shouldn’t have knocked her out. There were other ways to detain her, given her size, given what she was doing at the time.”
The chaos of the scene leads to unrest, he said.
“We never want to see officers being assaulted, have things thrown at them, being spit on, those things are wrong no matter what,” he said. “At the same time, there is an institutional memory, a collective memory of distrust where law enforcement has played role.”
The fallout from the incident is far reaching, with the community demanding the firing of the officer in question. As for Crum, felony assault charges for striking the officer are not being pursued by the Manhattan district attorney, and DiGiacomo isn’t happy about it, saying DA Alvin Bragg continues to be soft on crime.
The incident is now under review by Internal Affairs, and Crum’s family said they are considering filing a lawsuit. DiGiacomo said the union is also considering filing a civil lawsuit on behalf of Kinsey.
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