The NYPD and Brooklyn district attorney’s office have both opened investigations into the October 8th beating of 21-year-old Ehud HaLevy by two Brooklyn police officers.
The officers, Luis A. Vega and Yelena Bruzzese, entered the Alternative Learning Institute for Young Adults Center in Crown Heights at 5 a.m. in response to a call by Zalmy Trappler, a center volunteer. Trappler had apparently found HaLevy sleeping naked on a couch in the center’s lounge and asked him to leave. HaLevy refused, which prompted the phone call to the police.
As caught on surveillance video, available online, Vega and Buruzzese woke up HaLevy – who by now was wearing pants – and engaged in conversation for about a minute. They then tried to handcuff him, which he resisted by turning around and shifting his arms. After about 20 seconds of this stand-off, Vega began pummeling Halevy, hitting him in the face 25 times over the next two minutes.
“Those two officers behaved like animals,” said Assemblyman Dov Hikind in comments to Vosizneias.com. “How can two police officers who are sworn to uphold the law break the law like that? I have been close with the NYPD for years, and there are so many fine officers, but clearly these are two bad apples.”
Hikind held a press conference on Monday in Crown Heights, joined by State Senator Eric Adams, Assemblyman Karim Camara, New York City Comptroller John Liu, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and City Council members Letitia James and David Greenfield.
According to a criminal complaint, the police officers warned HaLevy they would arrest him for trespassing. In response, he said, “Go ahead and try it. I am going to hit you.”
HaLevy claims he had permission to sleep in the center. Rabbi Moishe Feiglin, a director at the youth outreach center (and cousin of the Likud politician of the same name), confirmed to The New York Times that HaLevy was telling the truth. He needed “a place to crash for a short period,” Feiglin said.
In response to a request for comment, the police department e-mailed the following statement to The Jewish Press: “The officers used force to affect the arrest, in which Ehud Haleavy M/W/21 was charged with assault, trespass, resisting arrest, harassment, and unlawful possession of marijuana. The NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau opened an investigation of the incident yesterday, after having seen a video of it. The matter was also referred by IAB to the Civilian Complaint Review Board. One of the officers, M/H/49 and assigned to the 71st Pct, has been placed on modified assignment while the incident is under investigation.”
“M/H/49” refers to Officer Vega.