A Staten Island teen who spent two weeks in jail insists he was framed by New York Police Department officers and says police body cam footage, recently obtained by The New York Times, proves it.
An internal police investigation found no evidence of misconduct, however, questions about the incident still remain.
The drama unfolded Feb. 28 when NYPD officers Kyle Erickson and Elmer Pastran stopped Lasou Kuyateh‘s black BMW on Staten Island, arguing the car’s windows were tinted too darkly and that the 19-year-old had turned without using his signal. In the video from the stop, one of Kuyateh’s friends admits to smoking marijuana earlier that day.
The young men insist there’s no weed in the car, but the officers believe otherwise.
“I don’t appreciate being lied to,” Officer Pastran responds. “I know there is weed in the car. I smell it.”
The teens are ordered out of the car, after which Pastran and Erickson search the vehicle. The video shows Pastran comb through the backseat and announce to his partner that he found nothing, saying, “The backseat looks pretty clear.”
Erickson’s search of the car also turned up nothing. During his probe, the officer’s body-worn camera catches him telling his partner “We gotta find it. We have to find something. You know what I mean?”
Moments later, Erickson decides to check the backseat once more. This time, his body camera conveniently goes dark and stops recording in the middle of the search. Video from Pastran’s body camera, however, shows Erickson fiddling with something in the backseat area.
Kuyateh, who recorded the incident on his cell phone, quickly took notice and accused the officers attempting to plant evidence in his car.
“He is putting something in my car, yo! He’s putting something in my car!” the teen starts to shout before officers confiscate his phone and place him in handcuffs. Pastran then walks over to a backup officer at the scene and explains that while they had not found anything, they were still going to arrest Kuyateh for Obstructing Government Administration (OGA).
Four minutes after shutting off, Erickson’s body camera flips back on and captures the moment he discovers a half-lit marijuana joint in the back of the car — the area he had checked twice already. A dime baggie that didn’t appear in any of the officers’ previous videos is also spotted on the backseat.
Police ultimately arrest Kuyateh and charge him with marijuana possession. It was two weeks before the 19-year-old was able to make bail.
At his pre-trial hearing, Kuyateh maintained that the officers had planted drugs in his car. The unthinkable happened moments later when prosecutors abruptly dropped the marijuana charge in the middle of Officer Erickson’s testimony, citing the gap in his body cam as the reason, according to The New York Times. Judge Christopher Robles dismissed the case after viewing the video and ordered that it be sealed.
Watch more in the video below.