UPDATED 4:30 PM OCT. 15
New York's Civilian Complaint Review Board and the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau are probing the case of a man beaten by cops inside a Crown Heights Jewish youth center during an Oct. 8 arrest attempt, a police spokesman said Monday.
"The NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau opened an investigation of the incident yesterday, after having seen a video of it," Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told The Jewish Week in an email. "The matter was also referred by IAB to the Civilian Complaint Review Board. One of the officers, [a male Hispanic, age 49] and assigned to the 71st Pct. has been placed on modified assignment while the incident is under investigation."
A surveillance video showing two cops pummeling the shirtless man, Ehud Halevy, 21, after they were called to remove him from the lounge of the Aliya youth center on East New York Avenue was released Sunday by the web site CrownHeights.info and immediately led to accusations of excessive force.
The police say Halevy resisted arrest and was in possession of marijuana.
Halevy had permission to sleep in the center but a volunteer called the cops saying he was trespassing. The volunteer , Zlamy Trappler, 24, later said he regretted making that call, telling the Daily News "I should have let him sleep."
"There was a miscommunication," said the founder of the center, Rabbi Moshe Feiglin. "He needed a place to crash for a little but he gets his life together. The person who locked up didn't recognize him and for some reason asked him to leave and it got confrontational."
Aliya (Advanced Learning Institute for Young Adults) was founded in 2003 by Australia-born Rabbi Feiglin, who is a first cousin of an Israeli political figure by the same name.
According to its web site, the center "is committed to serving spiritual, physical, educational, emotional and vocational needs of young adults in the Crown Heights community."
The incident unfolded about 5 a.m. during the holiday of Shemini Atzeret. Halevy had been staying at the center for several days.
The video (below) shows a gloved, male officer assuming a boxing stance during the confrontation, before hitting Halevy repeatedly with his fists. The officer's female partner is also seen hitting him, using a baton.
The video also shows Halevi resisting efforts to handcuff him before the scuffle ensued, but never shows him attacking the cops.
Additional officers from the 71st Precinct soon arrived to assist, although by that time Halevi is seen on a couch in a defensive posture.
Although the video has no audio, reports say Halevi tried to tell the cops he had permission to sleep at the youth center.
In his statement, Browne said "Police responded on October 8 at 5:12 a.m. to a call of a dispute inside of a synagogue's outreach center in Brooklyn, where a man refused to vacate the women's portion of the center. The officers used force to affect the arrest, in which Ehud Haleavy M/W/21 [male, white, 21] was charged with assault, trespass, resisting arrest, harassment, and unlawful possession of marijuana."
Community leaders on Monday morning called for an investigation and disciplinary action.
"These appear to be two of the worst members of the NYPD," said Councilman David Greenfield, who represents Borough Park and Midwood, in a statement. "It is an embarrassment to the entire outstanding police department that two trained and armed police officers were unable to arrest this individual without resorting to the disturbing violence clearly shown on the video."
Greenfield also called on Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes to investigate whether there was criminal behavior. He is co-sponsoring legislation to establish an inspector general of the NYPD to investigate abuse allegations, currently handled by the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
(Note: This video and its title were created and posted by CrownHeights.info)
In addition to Crown Heights Jewish leaders, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Council member Letitia James and other officials attended the press conference on Monday. Halevy was not present.
A spokesman for Anti-Defamation League on Monday told The Jewish Week the agency had no comment about the incident at this time.
Barry Sugar founder of the Jewish Leadership Council, a group that has been critical of the NYPD and DA's conduct toward the Crown Heights Jewish community, said in an interview Monday that "we have reached out to the police department on a number of occasions regarding violent attacks [against civilians] and they have not ben responsive."
He said Halevi "had permission to stay there and told the officers I will get you the phone number of the dean of the center. The person who called [the police] had no authorization."
Rabbi Feiglin, when told by The Jewish Week that the officer was placed on modified assignment, said "We're very happy they are investigating and we hope this doesn't happen again.
"We want members of our youth center to feel like they are coming to a safe havenand a place thye can call home, and be protected and that trust was lost."
An earlier version of this story stated an incorrect age for Ehud Halevy.