Prosecutors have dropped charges against a young man whose videotaped beating by New York police officers inside a Jewish community center where he had been sleeping sparked protests.
The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles Hynes, announced Monday that after reviewing the video and other facts of the case, there was no evidence that Ehud Halevy, 21, assaulted police officers and resisted arrest on Oct. 8. That morning, police confronted Halevy as he slept inside the Alternative Learning Institute for Young Adults in Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood.
A security guard had called police after finding Halevy inside the center. But the center's leader, Rabbi Moishe Feiglin, said Halevy had permission to sleep there. Feiglin was among those who had protested the police actions, which were captured by surveillance cameras inside the facility.
"It's been a really tough week, it's been a trying week from when we saw the videos to know what happened to our own member, at our own center, in our own safe haven," Feiglin said after learning of the decision to drop the charges, New York's NY1 TV reported. "We try to make them feel at home. To see someone get beaten so badly, it was very difficult for all of us."
The video shows a shirtless Halevy rising from a leather sofa after being approached by a male and a female officer. After what appears to be an animated conversation, Halevy backs away as the officers attempt to cuff his hands behind his back. Several times, he moves his hands out of reach of the officers. Once, he raises them above his head and appears to flail and push the male officer away as the policeman tries to wrap his arms around Halevy in an attempt to subdue him.
At that point, the male officer, identified as Luis Vega, advances toward Halevy, both fists raised. He punches him with his right fist, knocking Halevy back onto a sofa. Both officers then repeatedly punch the cowering Halevy with their fists and a baton, eventually dragging him onto the floor, cuffing him and putting him under arrest.
The police have launched an internal investigation into the incident and also referred it to a civilian board that handles allegations of police brutality. Vega has been placed on administrative duty and taken off the streets. Police said his female partner, Yelena Bruzzese, shown in the video hitting Halevy with a baton, suffered a sprained wrist in the incident.
"Justice was done here," said Halevy's lawyer Norman Siegel, the Daily News reported. "There was no legal basis for the criminal charges and the dramatic video was extremely helpful."