SUNSET PARK — A 72nd Precinct police officer was suspended after he kicked a fruit vendor in the back “totally unprovoked” during an arrest at a neighborhood street fair, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said Wednesday.
Officer Vincent Ciardiello was ordered to turn in his badge and gun and cease all police work pending an investigation into a video that shows him kicking 22-year-old Jonathan Daza during an altercation as the Sunset Park Fifth Avenue Street Festival came to a close on Sunday, law enforcement sources said.
Ciardiello could not be reached for comment.
Daza, a street vendor, told reporters Wednesday that he and his family were working at the Fifth Avenue festival near 46th Street selling fresh-cut fruit. They were almost done packing up their table around 6 p.m. when police officers approached and told them they had five minutes to get lost, he said.
A police officer then approached Daza's 17-year-old sister Cindy and demanded, "How old are you?" Daza said he intervened, telling his sister, "You don't have to answer that."
Daza said he got involved because the situation, which was caught on a shocking 4-and-a-half-minute cellphone video, was heating up and it "looked like the cop was going to hit” his sister.
Daza — who can be seen in the video wearing a black and white tracksuit — said things escalated quickly, as a group of officers surrounded him and began interrogating him, before one of them grabbed Daza's shoulders and slammed him to the ground.
Suddenly, Daza said he was pinned facedown to the ground by a half dozen officers, and said he told them that he couldn't breathe, but no one would listen, he said.
In the video, Ciardiello can be seen walking up to the melee and kicking Daza squarely in the back, before walking away.
"I couldn't believe it," Daza said.
Daza was hauled in to central booking and charged with misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest, harassment and disorderly conduct. He was arraigned on Monday and released without bail. He has to return to court Sept. 24.
"Right now I'm scared of the cops. I got beaten by them," he said.
He added that no one from the NYPD approached him after the arrest, and said he didn't think Ciardiello's discipline was sufficient. "I don't think that's enough," Daza said.
NYPD Commissioner Bratton said that the department's Internal Affairs Bureau was investigating the incident.
"As best as I could tell looking at that video, it seemed to have been totally unprovoked," Bratton told reporters at an unrelated press conference on Wednesday. “We will treat those types of actions on the part of our officers very seriously."
Bratton explained that that police became involved because the street fair was supposed to end at 6, but officers allowed it to continue until 7 p.m. and they needed to reopen Fifth Avenue to traffic. Bratton added that five people were arrested during the street fair.
But the festival is allowed to run till 6 p.m. and the vendors are usually given time till 7 p.m. to clear their wares, said Renee Giordano, executive director of the Sunset Park Business Improvement District, which organized the street fair.
“The festival was a wonderful event,” Giordano said. "It’s really unfortunate that something like this had to happen.”
The BID is currently investigating the incident — the first such altercation that has occurred during one of its events, Giordano said.
Bratton said he would "very aggressively be addressing both what I saw on the video but more importantly the larger issues" of police relations in the community.
“We have a diverse community over there of Mexican population, Dominican and Puerto Rican, that’s the makeup of the population,” Bratton said.
According to the viral video, police became embroiled in a melee that spilled off the sidewalk and onto the street as a crowd of officers clashed with angry street fair vendors and patrons, according to the video.
The video shows police officers ordering the crowd to disperse, restraining some individuals and pushing people back when they refused.
Some critics said the NYPD unnecessarily escalated the incident, using too much force, and went too far when its officer kicked Daza.
"He could barely walk," said Daza's live-in girlfriend Iris Ariza, 19 — who is expecting the couple's second child. Ariza said she was slammed against a table during the clash and suffered pain in her lower back.
The 72nd Precinct declined to comment, but Bratton said that he expected them to be present at a town hall meeting that should take place within the next few days.
Elected officials said the physical aggression depicted in the video was “disturbing,” in a letter signed by Councilman Carlos Menchaca and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.
“Sunset Park has a large Latino population. We are a community that has felt unfairly targeted, particularly with the explosion of Stop and Frisk in our City over the last decade," the letter said, adding that the neighborhood was a "community of immigrants that has historically felt isolated from the police."
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which represents police officers, did not respond to calls for comment.