A Brooklyn woman has been left traumatized after she opened her door when the NYPD knocked at 11:45 pm on July 13. Just out of the shower, she had just enough time to put on her underwear and wrap a towel around her. Denise Stewart opened her door just a crack when police forced the door open and dragged her out of her apartment.
Then chaos ensued.
In a disturbing video recorded by a neighbor, more than a half dozen officers swarmed on the mother and grandmother and pinned her against the wall. They ignored her cries when trying to ask for an explanation. Her towel fell off and she was left bare breasted wearing only her underwear, as several male officers continued to shout and manhandle her in front of several neighbors and her family.
For more than two minutes, the naked woman is heard screaming and complaining that she is having trouble breathing and needed her oxygen. Her neighbors try to intervene and tell the officers that Stewart suffers from asthma. Others are heard begging for the several male officers to allow a female officer to deal with her. As she faints, the officers handcuff her, and a female officer finally places a towel over her to cover her naked body.
In the ensuing chaos, Stewart’s adult son and daughter tried to come to her defense. Police officers later arrested them for resisting arrest. Also in the apartment were Stewart’s 12-year-old daughter and 4-year-old grandson. The police claimed the 12-year-old had visible marks on her face and took her to place her into custody with child services. The terrified girl, denying any claims of abuse, resisted and kicked the windows of the police car, breaking the window, a piece of which apparently made a minor cut to an officer’s chin. The officers arrested her for assaulting a police officer, criminal mischief and criminal possession of a weapon. Witnesses also report that the 4-year-old was pepper sprayed.
The police said they were responding to a 911 domestic disturbance call. The only problem is, the call was for a different unit. They had knocked on the wrong door.
The incident comes on the heels of another situation last month in which a Staten Island father of six was killed by an NYPD officer in full view of a cell phone camera. In that incident, Eric Garner can be seen with his hands in the air, explaining that he had done nothing wrong after just breaking up a fight between neighbors. A neighbor decided to record the confrontation as the NYPD had a history of harassing Garner for his alleged illegal selling of untaxed single cigarettes.
The situation escalated to the point of several officers physically taking into custody the very large black man who never resisted. One officer placed him in a chokehold while he lay handcuffed on the sidewalk. Garner is heard saying he couldn’t breathe and shortly thereafter died. No attempts were made to revive him by the officers or the EMTs.
His death has been ruled a homicide.
The New York City Police Department has never been known for its measured approach to enforcement of the law. It has a long history of corruption and excessive force, with investigations dating as far back as 1895. They’ve enjoyed the benefit of tough on crime polices with little intervention from politicians. These policies have overwhelmingly had a negative impact on people of color leading to documented evidence of disproportionate “enforcement” in communities that have no recourse to fight back.
Except now there is videotaped evidence.
The NYPD recently arrested the man who videotaped Eric Garner’s death on charges that he was in possession of an illegal gun. They also arrested his wife after she was reportedly seen having an argument with a woman on the street. Thus far no charges have been filed against the officers who are currently on paid leave.
As for Denise Stewart, the city’s Administration of Children Services investigated the claim of child abuse and found no injuries on the girl and no evidence of neglect. Ms. Stewart continues to deal with the trauma of being physically manhandled by several male officers in the view of her family and neighbors.
“I didn’t do nothing wrong,” she said, crying as she recounted the ordeal to the Daily News. “It’s disgusting and embarrassing. I’ve been married 16 years. It took my husband 10 years to see my nakedness.”
The NYPD says the incident is being investigated by internal affairs.