Though it didn’t work in the Eric Garner case, a cellphone video apparently has led to the indictment of a New York City police officer for assaulting an unarmed Black man, which would be the third cop indicted by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office in the last three months because of assaults caught on video—demonstrating once again that cellphones are still the best protection civilians have against police over-aggression, at least to demonstrate these brutal acts are taking place.
The officer in this case is Joel Edouard, 36, who is Black and who was caught on video stomping Jahmiel Cuffee in the head on July 23 during an encounter in Bed-Stuy. Cops allege that they saw Cuffee tossing aside a marijuana joint. Sources told the New York Daily News that Edouard has been indicted on a misdemeanor charge, which could carry a year in jail.
The two previous indictments came in November, when the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who is African-American, went after two officers who were captured on surveillance video punching and pistol-whipping a teen, Kahreem Tribble, who was also being busted for marijuana possession. Those assault cases are still pending; one of them carries a felony charge.
A major difference between the outcome of these cases and the fatal Eric Garner case is where the assaults took place. Garner was killed by police officer Daniel Pantaleo in Staten Island, a borough which is 73 percent white and just 11 percent Black and a place where many cops and their families reside, meaning grand jurors are much more likely to be police supporters. In contrast, Brooklyn is 34 percent Black, which means Black people are much more likely to be on a grand jury and likely would have had some negative encounters with members of the NYPD, or know someone who has.
The Cuffee assault came less than a week after Garner was killed.
Across the nation, indictments against police officers are exceedingly rare. Brooklyn DA Thompson, who was born, raised and educated in New York City, may have a unique window into the culture and attitudes of the NYPD because his mother was one of the first female police officers to patrol the streets of New York.
The cellphone video of the assault shows much of the block gathered around, yelling at two Black officers as they wrestle Cuffee to the ground, with one of them forcefully holding down his head.
“This is a Black community, brother,” said the man who is recording the video. “Yo, remember me? I already got a lawsuit over there. What are you doing?”
As the officers get more aggressive with Cuffee, the videographer yells at them, seemingly in warning, “I got you on camera! I have you on camera!”
An unidentified Black woman actually tries to pull Cuffee away from the police officers.
When Edouard stalks around the scene, huffing and puffing, at one point he can be seen briefly pulling a gun, then putting it back in his holster.
“Help me!” Cuffee pleads as the cops hold him down.
“What are you doing, bro? You’re in your feelings way too much,” the videographer says to Edouard.
At that point, Edouard walks toward Cuffee and violently stomps him in the head as the crowd collectively gasps.
“What is wrong with your officer?” the videographer asks.
Sources told the Daily News that the officer will surrender today, when he will be arraigned.
The Brooklyn DA’s office is currently investigating six other police brutality cases, so more indictments could be forthcoming.
Cuffee, who has a 2-year-old son, has said he suffered scrapes and bumps. He was charged with attempted tampering with evidence, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest, but his case was dismissed in December.
“There was no evidence of marijuana,” a law enforcement source said.
Edouard, an eight-year veteran of the NYPD, was placed on modified duty back in July when the case happened.