Back in 2012, at about 5:30 a.m. on September 22, Jose Velez was having a rough morning. The allegedly intoxicated man hit several parked cars while driving near the intersection of Avenue C and 11th Street, causing his airbag to deploy and drawing the attention of nearby police officer Michael O’Brien.
A bad situation took a sharp turn for the worse when, according to Velez, he was tackled to the ground and repeatedly kicked by one or more of the police officers who responded to the scene, causing injuries serious enough to warrant a trip to Bellevue Hospital. Now he’s suing four members of the 9th Precinct for damages related to his injuries, according to a request for a jury trail filed with the U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York last week.
It’s hard to say how clearly Velez remembers the incident, given that O’Brien described him as unsteady on his feet and slurring his speech. A witness at the scene confirmed that he was swaying and his speech was unclear, according to the complaint written by Velez’s lawyer, Ilissa Brownstein of Brownstein legal. The document states that, according to O’Brien’s report, while the officer was trying to place Velez under arrest the man turned in order to not be handcuffed.
“After placing plaintiff in handcuffs and subduing him by putting him face down on the ground, an easy task in light of plaintiff’s swaying state as noted on police report, one or more of the defendants directly punched plaintiff in the side of the face four to five times,” the complaint reads. “Defendants on the scene who did not directly punch plaintiff in the side of the face four to five times failed to intervene to stop the violence.”
According to Velez, he asked one of the officers, whose name he’s still not sure of (not O’Brien), why he had been beaten, and the officer replied, “because I wanted to.” Velez says he told the police that he would bring a civil rights lawsuit, and that the same officer responded, “I’ve already had those.”
Velez was taken from the scene of the crash to the hospital, where he was checked in around 8:30 a.m. While being restrained by police he allegedly suffered “obvious head trauma,” a non-displaced nasal bone fracture, an abrasion on his forehead, blood in his nostrils, and swelling on his right cheekbone. He claims to have told hospital staff that he was punched in the face multiple times. Unfortunately Brownstein declined our requests for more information, and a police spokesperson told us she could provide no information on the incident because the NYPD has sealed the case.
Velez was taken to Central Booking after his release from Bellevue and is now, three years later, bringing the lawsuit “to vindicate [his] federal constitutional and statutory rights” and collect damages for emotional distress, mental anguish, fear, pain, bodily injury, anxiety, embarrassment and humiliation.