Teen Behind 'F---ing Mutt' Audiotape Got Idea from Activist Stepdad
HARLEM — The 16-year-old behind a controversial stop-and-frisk audiotape released Tuesday got the idea to make the recording from his stepfather — who's been at the forefront of a series of anti-stop-and-frisk rallies, NYPD shooting protests and Occupy Wall Street marches.
Jose LaSalle, 42, an organizer with the advocacy organization Stop Stop and Frisk whose Facebook page is loaded with information about his activism work, told DNAinfo.com New York that he encouraged Alvin to make the recording to bring attention to the abuse of stop-and-frisk.
"I wanted to get involved to stop police brutality," he said following a heated City Council hearing on the controversial policy, where he and Alvin made a surprise appearance, re-playing the tape in the council chambers, which left members floored.
"Their faces were like 'whoa,'" LaSalle said.
Alvin's disturbing 2-minute audiotape captured an alleged encounter between Alvin and two unidentified men in civilian clothes who stopped and frisked him as he walked down 116th Street in Harlem in 2011.
The putative men, who are alleged to be NYPD officers, told him they were stopping him, “for being a being a f---ing mutt.”
“Dude, I’m going to break your f---ing arm,” one man said.
“Who the f--k do you think you’re talking to?” he was asked. “Show some f---ing respect.”
The recording, which went viral after being leaked to the left-leaning news organization "The Nation," has prompted outrage from many city officials, including Councilman Robert Jackson, who called for an investigation during Wednesday's hearing.
"It’s despicable, totally unacceptable,” he railed. “It should not be tolerated in our NYPD."
The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the recording.
NYU grad and documentarian Erin Schneider, who co-produced a documentary using the recording with Ross Tuttle, said the recording was borne from frustration.
“Alvin called [LaSalle] frustrated because he was getting stopped multiple times in one day. So he said 'hit record,'" she said.
LaSalle said he had been playing the tape to fellow activists for about a year, hoping someone might be interested in making it public. Then he met Tuttle, who suggested the film.
"He was happy about the video," LaSalle said of his stepson.
But Alvin's older sister, Jenny, 23, said she felt that LaSalle had pressured her brother into making the video public and was now concerned about possible "retaliation" from police.
"I thought they would have been more confidential," she said.
In addition to the film, LaSalle said he's hired a lawyer to look into the tape and that Alvin's mother, who passed away suddenly a year ago, filed a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board but hadn't yet received a response.
"She wanted the police punished for what they did," he said, adding that he still hopes the officers will be punished some day.
After the hearing, Alvin and Jose visited with several council members, including Jumaane Williams, who has been one of the most vocal opponents of stop-and-frisk.
But LaSalle said Alvin, who lives with his biological father, a police officer, is still adjusting to going public with the video.
"It's a new arena for him," he said.
LaSalle has become a prominent activist railing against the NYPD. He helped organize rallies recently for Reynaldo Cuevas, who was shot and killed by a police officer during a botched robbery at his bodega. LaSalle was also a leader in several Occupy Wall Street rallies and confronted Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at the African Day Parade about stop-and-frisk policies.
Schneider said she first met LaSalle at a rally against stop-and-frisk roughly a year ago while developing material for the documentary released Tuesday.
“He’s always very actively trying to get more and more people involved and understand what’s happening in his community,” Schneider said. “He’s become a crusader for stopping stop-and-frisk. When it started affecting his children and stepson, it hit a nerve.”
LaSalle said that Alvin had also recently become active in ending police brutality. The two were planning to attend the wake of Noel Polanco, the unarmed National Guardsman who was shot to death by police, Wednesday night.
LaSalle wrote proudly about his stepson on Facebook Tuesday night after posting a link to a Capital New York story about his son's documentary.
"My little Junior. I love my Step Son," LaSalle wrote [sic throughout].
"This is What our young Blacks and Hispanic youths have to deal with when they are Stoped by police. My Step Son was humiliated, dehuminized, traumatize and treated like a criminal for just being a Hispanic youth. Our children should not be treated like this, for they are not animals, but human beings," he wrote.
City Councilman Brad Lander said the recording, which he described as “chilling,” should serve as a wake-up call to New Yorkers about the realities of of stop-and-frisk.
“It absolutely has the ability to change people’s minds and really see what’s going on, especially for white people,” said Lander. “It’s not simple to understand the impact, and this gives it to you in a very powerful way.”
With reporting from Jill Colvin