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Man put in apparent chokehold during Queens arrest hospitalized, family says

Video stills of a Queens chokehold arrest involving Officer David Afanador
Posted at 9:00 AM, Jun 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-27 09:14:29-04

QUEENS — The man who was put in an apparent chokehold during an arrest in Queens last Sunday was hospitalized Thursday due to physical and psychological symptoms he’s been experiencing since the incident, his family said on Friday.

Ricky Bellevue was admitted to Lincoln Hospital four days after his violent arrest on the boardwalk in Rockaway, according to his family and attorney.

"When someone gets choked until they pass out, they lose oxygen to the brain, and the extent of the brain damage he suffered at that time is something this hospital has to determine," attorney Sanford Rubenstein said during a Friday news conference.

The chokehold incident exacerbated his previous mental illness, Rubenstein said, and he's being treated for both physical and psychological injuries.

"He says to me, 'Judith, I cannot close my eyes. Every time I close my eyes, I feel the officer choking me and I feel like I’m going to die.' He don’t sleep," Bellevue’s sister-in-law, Judith Ceno, said.

The officer who placed Bellevue in the apparent chokehold, David Afanador, was charged with attempted aggravated strangulation and strangulation in the second degree, according to the Queens County District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors allege Afanador placed Bellevue in a chokehold as other officers handcuffed him, causing him to lose consciousness. Afanador didn't let go until another police officer pulled on his back, cellphone video of the arrest shows.

The use of police chokeholds in New York was banned earlier this month as part of a sweeping package of police reform bills passed amid nationwide protests spurred by the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck for several minutes.

"The ink from the pen Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo used to sign this legislation was barely dry before this officer allegedly employed the very tactic the new law was designed to prohibit," Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said.

Afanador has pleaded not guilty and remains suspended from the NYPD without pay pending the investigation. If convicted, Afanador faces up to seven years in prison, according to the district attorney’s office.

Katz dropped the charges against Bellevue for which he was initially arrested.

This story comprises reporting from CNN Newsource.