NEW YORK — Nearly a week after JJIE uncovered a possible police cover-up of a 14-year-old boy who NYPD officers allegedly smashed through a store window in the Bronx, the Rev. Al Sharpton addressed a packed crowd of members and the press corps at the National Action Network demanding an investigation into the incident and the dismissal of the officers from the police department.
“Just as Miss Payne and his sister do not make any excuses for Javier, we don’t want the system to make any excuses for these police officers,” he said. “The police officers need to be dealt with by the Bronx district attorney’s office and the police department.”
Saturday, May 17, around 11 p.m., the boy, Javier Payne, was rushed to Jacobi Medical Center after he was allegedly smashed through a plate glass window by police while handcuffed at the Hookah Shop at 2491 Arthur Ave. In an interview the day after the incident, the store’s owner said he did not have any security footage of the incident.
Sharpton said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” as he shared the stage with Javier, who was rolled out on to the stage in a wheelchair, his mother, Cherita, and his sister Christina, along with his attorney, Sanford Rubenstein. At one point during the press conference, Sharpton lifted Javier’s T-shirt and showed the reporters the staples holding his wound together.
“This is just because he talked smart to a cop? This is where we’re living now?” Sharpton asked. “The fact that he went through that window handcuffed is a nightmare to every parent in this city.”
“I just want justice for my brother,” said Christina Payne as she fought back tears. “I want those cops to brought to justice.” His family said Javier weighs less than 90 pounds.
As he was driving the Payne family home, Rubenstein said that because Javier would most likely be testifying in front of a grand jury, in a criminal trial and a civil trial he could not comment. He said the family was buoyed by the support of Sharpton and the crowd.
“When you have 50 stitches in you, and pieces of glass removed from your lung, and a hole cut into your chest next to your heart, you can imagine how he feels,” Rubenstein said. “He’s in pain.”
In an interview with JJIE Friday afternoon, City Councilman Ritchie Torres said that he had been told by the NYPD that the sergeant involved in the incident (identified as Eliezer Pabon of the 48th Precinct) had been placed on modified duty by the department, stripping him of his gun and badge, while an Internal Affairs investigation takes place.
“It shouldn’t take a national celebrity to elevate an alleged case of police brutality to prominence,” Torres said outside of his district office soon after Sharpton finished his staged press event. “He can get a quicker response from the police commissioner than I can. What does that say about how seriously the city takes these allegations?”
Sharpton’s remarks come after a week of an evolving account from the NYPD’s press office, DCPI. The NYPD’s most recent account says Payne and a 13-year-old friend got into a fight with a 39-year-old, possibly over a cigarette. The two suspects left the scene of the assault, ducking into the hookah store on Arthur Avenue.
After Payne and the alleged accomplice left the store they were arrested and handcuffed. During the arrest Payne broke free from the arresting officer and went through the glass where he sustained his critical injury, including a punctured lung.
“I said to the commissioner, whatever Javier and his friend did, his family will deal with it,” Sharpton said to a roar of applause from audience. “But we cannot have a city where police can come and shove handcuffed children through window panes.”
Torres said he was distressed that it took five days for the NYPD leadership to reach out to him and let him know that there was a serious allegation of police brutality just blocks from his district office. And when word did come down it was terse and short on any details.
He said that after his disorienting and frustrating experience working with the NYPD this week that he has already had his staff begin to research for a new bill. Torres said he wants to make it a law that the NYPD report an incident to the City Council so that there can be transparency in the process.
The shattered window, for instance, was not kept as evidence or secured by an NYPD crime scene team. Instead it was trashed by the store owner after he replaced it the morning after the incident.
“Transparency is key during these investigations,” he said. “The power to police is the power to destroy, and that’s something that the mayor and the NYPD need to take very seriously.”
Less than an hour earlier, two teenagers craned their necks as they walked past a news crew that had set up outside the Hookah Shop at 2491 Arthur Ave. where the alleged incident took place. They had not heard about what happened to Javier Payne, but said they were not surprised. The teens said they and their friends have a contentious relationship with police officers from the 48th Precinct.
“It can be dramatic out here,” said Aron Gonzalez, who just turned 17. “I’m not trying to be racist but the police are always extra strict on Latino and black people. They see us as a bad influence, as troublemakers.”
Steven Adorno, 16, said that could not be further from the truth. He said he and Gonzalez are Kappa scholars at the Theodore Roosevelt Educational Campus around the corner from the Hookah Shop, and that they are into their studies. Adorno said he used to get angry when police stopped him, patted him down or just antagonized him. But he said he and his friends have developed a strategy to avoid getting consumed by anger or resentment.
“We’re from the hood,” he said. “That’s why the police are more tough on us. I just stop and stay calm. I let them frisk me or say what they’re going to say because I know I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m innocent.”
When he gets home, instead of getting angry, he said now he just feels pity for the officers who harass him and his friends. Gonzalez said his strategy is more simple.
“I just think about my Mom,” he said. “I know she wouldn’t want me to get hurt.”
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