Newly released bodycam footage shows police Tasered an unarmed man seven times during an arrest which ultimately led to his death.
NYPD officers confronted George Zapantis at his Queens home on June 21 in response to a 911 call from a passerby about an altercation involving a man with a gun. The man who made the call later said he had not seen the gun, but heard someone reference a firearm.
Zapantis suffered with mental health issues, and officers originally alleged they Tasered him because he ‘began to engage the officers and approach them with [a] sword in hand’. However, footage shows he was not armed.
At one point in the video, as NYPD officers taser George Zapantis, who has mental health issues, you hear a voice say:
— Cristian Benavides (@cbenavidesTV) June 24, 2020
Neighbours told police Zapantis had approached their 25-year-old son while carrying the sword, but they reportedly urged officers to wait until his Zapantis’ mother returned from work before approaching him because they knew he was mentally ill.
The team of nine officers knocked on Zapantis’ door and he appeared through the glass panes wearing a gladiator outfit, complete with a shield, sword and helmet.
In the newly released footage, Sgt. Carlos Nieves explains Zapantis later reappeared in the doorway ‘without his sword and helmet’ before charging police while banging and breaking the plastic insert of the screen door separating them.
One officer asked Zapantis to prove he was no longer holding the sword, which he did, but as he pushed through the door police began to Tase him.
The struggle lasted nearly five minutes, and Zapantis could be heard shouting that he couldn’t breathe as an officer pulled on his shirt from behind.
Police brought Zapantis to the ground and Tased him a total of seven times, until he went silent and once officer asked: ‘does he have a pulse?’
Sergeant Nieves identified Philip Salamone, James Walczyk and Brian Willabus as the three officers who fired their Tasers a collective six times, while a fourth officer, Eric Dieumegard, fired a colleague’s Taser in ‘drive stun’ mode, which is intended to immobilize someone by causing pain.
Following the altercation, the 29-year-old was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
George Vomvolakis, an attorney for the Zapantis family, said the release of the footage was ‘an opportunity for the public to see with their own eyes the excessive force’, The City reports.
It doesn’t take a trained professional to realise that six people on top of somebody and Tasering them repeatedly could potentially kill them.
Vomvolakis previously said the NYPD’s account of the arrest, in which they claimed he was armed, was a ‘lie’, adding: ‘It was more than clear that he was unarmed.’
Nieves said the incident is still under investigation by the department’s Force Investigation Division.
In the video, he commented:
We do not draw any conclusions about whether an officer’s actions were consistent with department policy and the law until all the facts are know.
A spokesperson for the office of State Attorney General Letitia James, which has jurisdiction in cases where police kill civilians believed to be unarmed, has an ongoing criminal investigation of the NYPD’s response.
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