VIDEO: Police Investigate Chokehold Arrest in Harlem Subway Station

By Jeff Mays and Ben Fractenberg  on July 23, 2014 4:47pm

Police Investigating Harlem Chokehold Arrest
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Facebook/Kelmy Rodriguez

HARLEM — Police are investigating another video of an officer placing a man in a chokehold and punching him in the face at an East Harlem subway station, an NYPD spokesman said.

Video of the incident surfaced about a week after the death of Staten Island man Eric Garner, on whom police also used the banned technique while trying to arrest him July 17 for selling untaxed cigarettes.

The new video shows police arresting Ronald Johns, 22, on July 14 at about 4:20 p.m. at the 125th Street and Lexington Avenue subway station. During the confrontation he is placed in what looks to be a chokehold at least twice.

Police Officer Colin McGuire stopped Johns after he entered the station through an exit gate, according to court papers.

Johns refused to show police his identification and then "flailed his arms and twisted his body to prevent Officer McGuire from putting handcuffs on him," according to a criminal complaint. 

The officers "had to struggle" with Johns and use pepper spray to subdue him, according to the court papers. 

He was charged with turnstile-jumping, resisting arrest and trespassing, records show. He was arraigned the next day and released without bail. Johns is due back in court on Sept. 17.

The Rev. Kelmy Rodriquez, an East Harlem community activist, said the video was sent to him anonymously.

A police spokesman said Wednesday that the Internal Affairs Bureau is examining the incident.

The 54-second video starts by showing two officers, one on his knees who has the same badge number as Officer McGuire, with the man's neck in a chokehold.

"Arms behind your back," yells the other officer as he tries to handcuff the man, according to the video.

The man continues to struggle and the officer punches the man in the side of the face with his right hand, drawing a reaction from the gathered crowd, the video shows.

"You busted his nose!" bystanders on the video are heard yelling.

As the struggle continues, the officer punches the man in the face again and uses one arm to place him in another chokehold, the video shows.

NYPD Investigating East Harlem Chokehold Video
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YouTube/savyfide

It is unclear if Johns suffered any injuries as a result of the chokehold.

"I was appalled when I saw this video, especially after the Eric Garner situation," said Rodriquez. "Something like this adds more gas to the fire."

Johns could not be located for comment Wednesday night.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton ordered a review of NYPD training on the use of force Tuesday following the outrage over Garner's death that included calls for Bratton's resignation.

“We’re going to do more than just a review of Staten Island,” Bratton said at the press conference. “The department needs to do a lot — a lot — in the area of training.”

In the Garner incident, Officer Daniel Pantaleo is seen placing the 43-year-old in a chokehold and wrestling him to the ground. As police kneel on Garner, he is repeatedly heard saying, "I can't breathe."

More on Eric Garner's Death: 

► NYPD to Review Use-of-Force Policy in Wake of Eric Garner Death

► Precinct Where Eric Garner Died Ranks High in Police Misconduct

EMTs Barred from Taking Calls as Staten Island Man's Death Investigated

Rodriquez said the July 14 incident could have had a similar outcome.

"The chokehold has to go. I cannot see why that was justified," he said. "We've seen the result of the chokehold — death or lawsuits."

Community anger over policing tactics is reaching a dangerous level, noted Rodriquez, citing a female officer who was recently punched in the face at an East Harlem public housing complex.

"This us-against-them vibe between police and the community must stop," he said. "I think the officer needs retraining and perhaps counseling. The officer should be removed from public contact and go through training to make sure he's ready to return to work in the community."

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