On June 8th of this year, Mario Ocasio died during an encounter with New York City police in his own apartment.
The NYPD story and witness accounts of what happened differed in the immediate aftermath.
However, there likely would have been little room for discrepancies if the NYPD had not unlawfully confiscated cell phone video of the entire incident and refused to release it to the victim’s family and the public.
What is not disputed is that ten NYPD officers went to Ocasio’s apartment responding to a call about an Emotionally Disturbed Person, an internal NYPD term with corresponding policies. The call was placed by Ocasio’s girlfriend, Geneice Lloyd, who said that he was having a bad reaction to smoking marijuana and staring out a window, saying, “I see God.”
Ocasio’s 27-year-old nephew, Nathan Cruz, was also in the apartment. When police arrived, Cruz began recording with his cell phone. During the encounter, Cruz gave the phone to Lloyd.
Also undisputed is that NYPD procedures prohibit the use of force against an “Emotionally Disturbed Person” except in cases of “immediate danger.”
Both Lloyd and Cruz stated that Ocasio posed no danger. They claim that Ocasio was on the floor when the NYPD arrived, but one officer “challenged” Ocasio and then immediately began beating him with his baton. Ultimately, one of the officers used a taser stun gun on Ocasio.
Ocasio went into cardiac arrest and died.
Immediately after the incident, the NYPD told the press that Ocasio was on heroin and lunged at the NYPD officers with a pair of scissors. This narrative was reported in almost every local news outlet, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Below are the scissors with which the NYPD said Ocasio lunged at them.
However, both claims proved to be entirely false.
After the press cycle passed, the NYPD admitted that Ocasio was completely unarmed, and toxicology reports proved that Ocasio had not used heroin.
The original police narrative would have likely never been reported or been overshadowed in the press if the NYPD had not gone to great lengths to unlawfully confiscate and withhold the video.
Yesterday, PINAC News spoke with Israel Burns, the lawyer for Ocasio’s family, who described how the NYPD confiscated the video, stating that while Lloyd was at the hospital with Ocasio, the NYPD detained Cruz, the nephew who started recording the encounter and later gave his phone to Lloyd.
Shortly after Ocasio had been pronounced dead, Lloyd contacted the police trying to locate Cruz. The police told her they were holding him and that she needed to go to the precinct and show them the video before they would release him.
When she arrived, they asked her for the phone and told her they were going to copy the video and give it back to her. However, they then refused to give the phone back and did not give her a voucher for the property.
The NYPD did not have the right to even request the phone from Lloyd, according to Burns, since they knew it was Cruz’s property. They also did not file any criminal complaints against Ocasio, Cruz, or Lloyd, so there was no reason to confiscate the phone as evidence, Burns noted.
Additionally, in a recent meeting with the Bronx District Attorney’s office, Burns was told that the investigation of the incident was “complete.” The district attorney did not clarify if any of the officers will be indicted for Ocasio’s death, and none of the names of the officers have been disclosed to Burns, the family, or otherwise.
On Wednesday, a federal court ruled that the city must release the video within six days. However, Burns and Ocasio’s family urge the public to keep the pressure on the city. They have posted this on-line petition demanding the release of the video.
Burns stresses that by delaying the release of the video, the city has not only denied Mario Ocasio justice in the eyes of the public, but in the courts as well. He does not trust local prosecutors to handle the case, and wants to see the state attorney general – who has since been appointed special prosecutor for all cases in which police officers kill unarmed people – take over the investigation.
However, the attorney general’s office told Burns that they are waiting on the medical examiner’s report on the cause of death. But the medical examiner has said that he is waiting to see the video before ruling on the cause of death.
All of this is holding up basic justice for the people of New York City. As Burns points out, this case is not an isolated incident.
The lawsuit, which you can read here, filed by the Ocasio family, cites six cases in which the NYPD has killed people during encounters in which they specifically violated their own procedure in dealing with emotionally disturbed people. The lawsuit calls for strict enforcement of this procedure. “Without enforcement,” Burns told PINAC news in a phone interview, “this is going to keep happening more and more.”
Burns also points to the numerous violations in confiscating and refusing to release the video of the incident, and calls for a policy czar within the NYPD who is responsible for investigating and punishing policy violations.
Below is a video posted by the Ocasio family attorney. And here is the petition again in case you missed it in the article.