The chief of police in an upstate New York city has defended one of his officers who kneeled on a suspect’s head during a violent arrest that was recorded on video. Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford said an investigation was underway. But he also defended and seemed to justify the unidentified officer’s actions because, he said, the suspect, who is Black, never lost consciousness, an assertion that has become a point of contention in the case.
The kneeling restraint used against Yugeshwar Gaindarpersaud has been widely condemned after a police officer used it to deadly effects on George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. But Chief Clifford attempted to justify its use this time around, saying the cop didn’t kneel for that long anyway, according to the Albany Times-Union.
“The officer was alone and attempting to gain control of the continually struggling Mr. Gaindarpersaud,” Clifford said. “This officer briefly placed his knee on Mr. Gaindarpersaud’s head to maintain control of the subject while calling for help and giving repeated commands to Mr. Gaindarpersaud’s family to back up.”
Clifford went on to say that the 22-seconds of video footage showing the arrest — including commentary from Gaindarpersaud’s father, who recorded the clip, telling the cop, “You’ve got the foot on his head!” — didn’t tell the entire story, suggesting that it was okay to kneel on a suspect’s head.
Watch the video below.
The chief asked the public for patience and trust in his department at a time when nationwide protests have pushed to defund law enforcement and demonstrated against police violence, racism and what is oftentimes the deadly combination of the two.
“The release of a partial clip of video and a photo unfortunately tend to drive a wedge between the community and police,” Clifford added. “I would ask that at this time the public be patient with the current probe and trust that once all information is reviewed the appropriate action will immediately be taken by this agency.”
Poice said the officer who arrested Gaindarpersaud was responding to a call reporting property damage. However, Gaindarpersaud told NBC News that the officer punched him in the stomach and hurt him on his own property. He also said that after a brief dispute with his neighbor who accused him of slashing tires, police approached him in his own backyard while he was watering plants claiming the was video footage of him committing the crime.
Gaindarpersaud said that when he demanded to see the evidence and turned to walk inside his home, the officer “grabbed me, throwed [sic] me on the ground, with his whole body weight, knee on my neck, on my brain.” He also said the cop smashed his head into the concrete.
Showing his still-fresh bruises to NBC News’ cameras, Gaindarpersaud said he lost consciousness after being slammed to the ground and woke up at a hospital.
Gaindarpersaud was calling for his arresting officer to be fired.
“I don’t feel safe,” he said.
Gaindarpersaud’s kneeling arrest came nearly one month after House Democrats introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 that would make illegal the use of a chokehold and carotid restraints like the one used in Schenectady on Monday.