By Matthew Chayes
NEW YORK — The family of a man who died after a violent encounter with the NYPD on Staten Island, joined by another man shown on an amateur cellphone video getting stomped on the head during an arrest in Brooklyn, appeared at a rally Saturday led by the Rev. Al Sharpton demanding action against police brutality.
The images that emerged of Jah-miel Cuffee's arrest shows him pinned on the pavement by other officers when the accused officer approaches and lowers his foot on Cuffee's head. He was suspected of smoking a marijuana cigarette, police said.
A week earlier, Sharpton preached from the same pulpit at his Harlem headquarters over the July 17 death of Eric Garner, 43, an accused peddler of untaxed cigarettes in Staten Island on whom cops applied a banned chokehold. That incident also was caught on amateur video.
Sharpton said he watched the video of Cuffee's Wednesday arrest after returning Friday from a meeting with federal prosecutors to ask that they, instead of the local district attorney, consider prosecuting the chokehold officer.
"It was almost like, 'Here we go again,' " Sharpton said.
Sharpton suggested he wants to see Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration roll back the so-called "broken-windows theory" of policing — championed by Police Commissioner William Bratton — in which officers focus on small offenses to deter bigger crimes.
"The challenge for this mayor is that you ran on transforming the Police Department," Sharpton said. "You have the opportunity now to show you said what you meant and you meant what you said."
Esaw Garner, the dead man's widow, said she wanted the officers involved in his arrest to be arrested. "He was a quiet man, but he's making a lot of noise now," she said.
Cuffee, 32, who has been charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and evidence tampering, had a bruise on his forehead that he says was sustained in the stomp.
"I just want it all to stop. I just want justice," he said.
Cuffee's sister, Rashida Rahim, said her brother was defenseless. "This has to stop," said Rahim, 39, of Englewood, New Jersey. "We need to have justice."
Both officers — Joel Edouard in the Cuffee case and Daniel Pantaleo in the Garner case -- have been stripped of their badges and guns and put on desk duty, the NYPD said.
The officers' union president said videos "present an isolated period of a police interaction but never the entire scenario."
Also attending Sharpton's rally Saturday was Nicole Bell, whose fiance, Sean Bell, was unarmed when he was shot dead by undercover police officers who fired 50 shots outside of a Jamaica, Queens, strip club in 2006. Bell said she felt a kinship with the Garners — "like looking in a mirror."
Sharpton said he and the Garner family are scheduled to meet Monday with Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. With Robert Brodsky
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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