BROOKLYN — An NYPD officer who was captured on video stomping on a marijuana suspect’s head and drawing his service weapon has been indicted on charges of assault and official misconduct, DNAinfo New York has learned.
Officer Joel Edouard, 37, surrendered Tuesday morning at the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson in connection with the arrest of Jahmil-El Cuffee last July. He pleaded not guilty and was released without bail after being arraigned in Brooklyn Supreme Court later in the day.
Cuffee, 32, was allegedly spotted rolling a joint on Malcolm X Boulevard in Bedford-Stuyvesant before officers tried to arrest him, sources said. On the video, officers can be seen trying to handcuff Cuffee as a crowd of people gather, taunting and questioning the officers' actions.
At one point, Edouard pulls out his gun as he and his partner grapple with Cuffee, and briefly points his weapon at the suspect's face.
He then holsters the gun and walks away from the scuffle, only to return a few moments later to suddenly lift his leg and step down on Cuffee's head.
The action occurred in full view of a number of witnesses, including one eyewitness who was recording the encounter.
“What is wrong with this officer?” a witness is heard screaming.
Cuffee was eventually taken to a nearby hospital with neck and head injuries and charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and pot possession, police said.
The video prompted outcries by local civic leaders and swift action by the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau, which stripped Edouard of his gun and badge and placed him on modified duty.
Charges against Cuffee were eventually dropped, officials said.
The officer's lawyer, Stephen Worth, said his client was simply trying to arrest someone who was resisting.
"What the evidence and what the video will show is an extended period of resisting arrest by the individual, Mr. Cuffee," Worth said after Edouard was released without bail during his arraignment in Brooklyn Supreme court, "that it takes several officers to try to get him cuffed and that the act that is called the so-called kick was part of the arrest process and to attempt to get his hand in custody so he could be handcuffed."
Edouard did not speak with press after his court appearance. He wore a grey pea coat and dark suit during the arraignment and looked stoic while his lawyer spoke.
The officer was the second NYPD officer last July to be placed on modified assignment. The other was Officer Daniel Pantaleo who was reassigned following the tragic death of Eric Garner on Staten Island.
In another case of alleged brutality in Bedford-Stuyvesant, two other officers were accused of beating a teenage marijuana suspect last October. Surveillance video shows one officer allegedly slamming the suspect in the face with his service revolver, and the other punching him. Both officers face criminal charges.
“Police officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us all safe. However, this defendant allegedly stomped on the head of a suspect as he lay on the ground, which is unacceptable for a police officer," Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement. "While a serious matter, this indictment should not reflect on the great work being done throughout the city by the vast majority of police officers who perform their duties honorably.”
Edouard was charged with assault in the third degree, attempted assault in the third degree and official misconduct, according to his indictment. He is due back in court on March 24.