A 26-year-old New Yorker was severely beaten right outside of Brooklyn’s 79th precinct Sunday night, all due to a misunderstanding that was blown out of proportion.
Josh Williams, a waiter who recently moved to New York from San Francisco, was walking with two of his roommates at around 4 a.m. in Brooklyn when Williams said he needed to pee. An officer standing in the precinct parking lot reportedly overheard Williams and accused him of peeing on the wall of the precinct. He then allegedly beat and maced Williams into submission.
According to Williams and his roommates, the officer never checked to see if Williams peed on the building, but rather straight out asked for their ID cards and turned offensive after Williams asked if they were being detained.
"[The officer] sort of snapped, twisting an arm behind my back and slamming me against a car," Williams said to The Village Voice. "I was able to ask him what was going on, and he slammed me against the car and pepper-sprayed me. I was blinded and disoriented."
Part of the encounter was caught on cell phone video by Ben Collins, one of Williams’ roommates. It shows officers surrounding Williams and using excessive force and offensive slurs. The officers easily overpowered the 5-foot-8, 140 pound Williams, who suffered a cut on his face, a scrape on his torso, bruised ribs and a black eye.
Williams, who is gay, claims that the excessive force was driven by the officers’ homophobia.
"This case is so extreme in how the encounter escalated so fast over something so silly and turned so violent," said Williams' lawyer, Cynthia Conti-Cook. "Based on how the incident started, there's very little to justify such extreme action other than homophobia."
After the officers attacked Williams, they detained him in a holding cell where he had to wait hours before going to the hospital. Williams’ two roommates were detained also after they told an officer they had caught the incident on video. According to the roommates, the officers arrested them after Williams in an attempt to get rid of the video.
For Williams, the incident has left him jaded about the role police officers play in New York.
"It's caused a lot of anxiety for me," Williams said. "Being brought up to think cops are there to protect and serve and to have an experience like this completely eradicates the idea that that's truthful in the least."