A New York City police officer is accused of harassing and then arresting a man who was recording a separate arrest inside a subway station on Saturday. The cop, identified as Officer Rojas, is also accused of then deleting the video of the incident from the man’s camera -- but it was later retrieved using video recovery software.
Activist Shawn Randall Thomas claims he was standing roughly 30-feet away recording a different NYPD cop, who had detained a man for jumping a turnstile in the subway station. The officer seemingly had no problem with Thomas recording him.
The video is entirely uneventful for about four minutes. The officer who detained the turnstile jumper remained professional, calm, and collected as he asserted control over the situation. The suspect did not appear to be disorderly.
Then Officer Rojas is seen arriving on the scene, quickly taking notice of Thomas recording the arrest. Rojas can be seen on video pulling out his cellphone and recording Thomas, walking directly up to him and putting the phone directly in front of the man’s camera lens.
After about 30-seconds of silence, Thomas eventually tells the officer, “You’re violating my personal space.”
“You’re violating my personal space too,” Rojas replies in the video.
Thomas then requested the officer’s name and shield number, citing the NYPD’s “patrol guide” that states an officer is required to provide the information to citizens.
“What’s your name?” the officer says, declining to provide an answer.
Rojas is also heard asking Thomas why he is invading the officers’ personal space, to which he replied: “You walked 30 feet to me.”
The tense exchange continues for several minutes with neither man backing down. Rojas also tells Thomas that “maybe” he should just arrest him. Eventually, Thomas loses his cool and tells the officer to “back the f*** up” and get out of his personal space.
“This is my station, right here,” Rojas tells him.
“This is not your station, you’re a public servant,” Thomas shoots back. “This belongs to the public and you’re a servant, and you’re disrespecting me and you’re harassing me. Now again, can you back the f*** up.”
Shortly after what the officer described as the fourth time Thomas cursed at him, the video claims Rojas began his “unlawful physical assault” on Thomas. Because the video becomes shaky and then cuts off, it’s currently impossible to know for sure what occurred during the arrest. At this point we only have Thomas’s version of the arrest.
Watch the video that we do have of the incident:
Thomas claims Rojas then grabbed his arm, twisted it behind his back, took his camera batteries and put them in his pocket. The officer allegedly told him to leave, knowing he couldn’t record any more video without batteries.
However, Thomas says he then pulled out his Blackberry and attempted to document how he was kicked out of the subway station for video recording. He says this infuriated Rojas.
“He then knocked the phone out of my hand and slams me to the ground. Then he grabbed the back of my head and slammed it into the pavement,” Thomas said, according to Photography Is Not a Crime.
The man alleges his lip was busted during the arrest and he required medical attention twice during his 24-hour stint in jail.
The next footage seen in the video, reportedly taken by a bystander, shows Rojas arresting Thomas in the snow. The bystander apparently tracked Thomas down on Facebook later and provided him with the video.
Thomas claims he downloaded Rucuva, a free video recovery program, after he was released from jail and was able to recover the video footage, which he claims was deleted.
Thomas reportedly faces charges of resisting arrest, trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing government, though we are still trying to confirm the charges through the NYPD. He was also arrested last year for video recording in front an NYPD station, though the charges were later dropped.
We contacted Transit Bureau District 32, which Officer Rojas works out of, and we were told that Deputy Inspector Michael A. Davidson was not available to discuss the incident. When we asked to be connected to their media relations department or a spokesperson, we were put on hold for several minutes and then advised to contact DCPI, NYPD’s public information office.
A DCPI operator then advised us to send an email requesting a statement from the NYPD, which we did. We will update this story should the NYPD respond to our inquiry.
In a later attempt to contact Rojas, we again contacted Transit Bureau District 32 and asked for him by name and badge number. Our call was put on hold for a brief moment before it was disconnected.
UPDATE: Photography Is Not a Crime has published the arrest report from the incident, which it claims was provided by Thomas.
In the arrest report, Rojas claims Thomas was in “very close proximity” to his partner while he was issuing the summons and he refused to “step back” when asked “repeatedly” to do so. The report also alleges that after being “escorted” out of the subway station, Thomas “continued to film deponent and closely follow deponent back into said train station.”
The arrest report concludes: “False statements in this documents are punishable asa class A misdemeanor pursuant to Section 210.45 of the penal law.”
Read the entire thing below: