NEW YORK - A New York City police officer who was caught on video violently shoving a woman to the ground during a recent protest over the death of George Floyd is facing criminal charges, Brooklyn prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Officer Vincent D'Andraia was charged with assault, criminal mischief, harassment and menacing in the May 29 altercation that sent protester Dounya Zayer to the hospital, causing what she said was a concussion and a seizure after hitting her head on the pavement.
D'Andraia was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. The officer was ordered to stay away from Zayer who was hospitalized after the May 29 altercation with what she said were a concussion and a seizure.
"Dounya was assaulted for the very reason she was protesting, and that's police brutality," said Zayer's attorney, Tahanie Aboushi, adding that D'Andraia's supervisor should face punishment beyond an announced reassignment.
"If not for this being on video it would have been business as usual for the NYPD," Aboushi said.
In a statement announcing the charges, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said he was "deeply troubled by this unnecessary assault." Zayer, 20, called D'Andraia a coward and suggested the assault would only deepen mistrust of law enforcement.
"I was protesting for a reason," Zayer said in a video tweeted from her hospital bed. The officer, she added, "should have had the self restraint to not hurt the people he's supposed to be protecting."
The police department suspended D'Andraia, 28, last week without pay. His lawyer, Stephen Worth, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. If convicted, he could face a year behind bars, but first-time offenders rarely see any jail time.
D'Andraia is the first New York City police officer to face criminal charges over alleged misconduct exhibited during days of unrest that roiled the city in the wake of Floyd's death in Minneapolis. Two Buffalo officers were charged with assault last week after they were seen on video shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground.
D'Andraia's union said Mayor Bill de Blasio and police leaders were "sacrificing cops to save their own skin" by sending officers out to protests with "no support and no clear plan."
"They should be the ones facing this mob-rule justice," Police Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch said. "We will say it again: New York City police officers have been abandoned by our leadership. We are utterly alone in our efforts to protect our city.
Footage of D'Andraia manhandling the woman was viewed millions of times on Twitter and generated outrage among protesters and elected officials. The altercation underscored the same concerns about police misconduct that prompted demonstrations around the country following Floyd's May 25 death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries called for D'Andraia's firing and praised the reassignment of his commanding officer, who witnessed the shoving and did not intervene.
"Violent police officers who brutalize civilians must be held accountable for their behavior," Jeffries said in a statement. "It's my hope this is the beginning of transformational change in the largest police department in the nation."