A New York City cop beat up and arrested a man for video recording him inside a subway station from 30 feet away Saturday night, walking up to him and getting in his face all while claiming the man was invading his personal space.
Officer Rojas, shield number 23404, then deleted the video, never mentioning the camera once in his arrest report, claiming the man had physically interfered with another arrest he was making.
But after spending 24 hours in jail, Shawn Randall Thomas managed to recover the deleted footage, proving that Rojas is not only a liar, but a bullying thug as well.
Thomas also obtained footage from another man who had recorded Rojas with his knees on Thomas’ back as he lay face down on the sidewalk just outside the sub station, seconds after Rojas had bashed his face into the pavement, busting his lip.
The injury was so bad that they had to transport him to the hospital twice during his 24-hour incarceration where doctors described him as a victim of assault.
“I was bleeding profusely,” Thomas said during an interview with Photography is Not a Crime Monday night.
“I was having really bad head pains while in jail, so they took me back to the hospital the following morning.”
The incident began when Thomas was video recording another NYPD cop named Dai, who didn’t mind being recorded, detaining a man for jumping the turnstile. The video runs for more than four minutes before Rojas arrives on the scene. Four long minutes of uneventful footage but proving that everything was under control until Rojas arrived.
At 5:00 into the video, Rojas pulls out his iPhone and begins recording Thomas, walking up to him and sticking the phone directly in front of Thomas’ lens, doing this wordlessly for more than 30 seconds.
“You’re violating my personal space,” Thomas tells him.
“You’re violating my personal space too,” Rojas responds.
“What’s your name and shield number?” Thomas asks.
“What’s your name?”
The situation remains tense for several minutes with Rojas not backing down, threatening to arrest him while Thomas stands up for his rights, telling him to “back the fuck off.”
Rojas tells him, “this is my station” before ordering him out of the train station. He then grabs his arm, twisting it behind him and opening the camera’s battery compartment, removing the batteries and pocketing them.
After walking up two flights of stairs and emerging onto the street above, Rojas told him to leave, knowing that Thomas would no longer be able to record without batteries.
But Thomas pulled out his Blackberry and attempted to turn it on to document how he had just been kicked out for video recording.
“He then knocked the phone out of my hand and slams me to the ground,” Thomas said. “Then he grabbed the back of my head and slammed it into the pavement.”
Thomas began yelling for bystanders to record, which prompted at least one man to record Rojas with his knees on Thomas’ back.
By the time Thomas had been released from jail, the man had tracked him down through Facebook and had sent him the video.
Thomas also downloaded a free program called Recuva, which allowed him to recover the deleted footage in minutes.
But he is still facing charges of resisting arrest, trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing government, which should be enough to criminally charge Rojas considering another NYPD cop was charged with falsifying records last year in the arrest of a New York Times photographer.
Thomas was arrested last year for video recording in front of an NYPD station, but those charges were dismissed.
Rojas works out of Transit Bureau District 32, which can be reached at (718) 221-6600. Ask for Deputy Inspector Michael A. Davidson, who heads that bureau.
Or better yet, contact newly inaugurated New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to see where he stands on the issue as he provides numerous ways to reach out to him.
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By phone, call 311 if you’re in New York City or 212-NEW-YORK from outside the five boroughs.
UPDATE: Thomas has since obtained the arrest report where Rojas accused him of being in “close proximity” to them as they tried to issue another man a summons. He also claimed that they ordered him numerous times to leave the station but he refused. And he topped it all off by claiming that he had to physically escort Thomas out of the station, only for him to follow him back inside with a camera.
At first, Thomas was under the impression that Rojas had not mentioned the camera but he did slip in the word “film” when accusing Thomas of returning to the scene after being escorted out.
The arrest report should be enough to terminate Rojas if not criminally charge him. Either way, he’ll have enough time on his hands to pursue a career in fiction writing considering he seems to have a talent for it.