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Officials: 2 officers suspended for kicking handcuffed man

March 3, 2021 GMT

HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (AP) — Two Suffolk County police officers seen kicking a suspect multiple times while he was handcuffed on the ground have been suspended without pay and are the subjects of a criminal investigation, authorities announced Tuesday.

Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart called the officers’ actions that were recorded Feb. 23 on body camera footage “concerning” and said she was troubled that other officers at the scene did not intervene, Newsday reported.

Hart and County Executive Steve Bellone held a press conference Tuesday night to announce the suspensions and investigation by Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini’s office. Three other officers at the scene, including a supervisor, have been placed on modified duty and could also be disciplined after a hearing, they said.

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“I watched that video earlier today,” Bellone said. “What I saw was disturbing, unacceptable and something that cannot be condoned.”

Christopher Cruz, 30, was spotted in Port Jefferson Station, New York, driving a stolen vehicle into the parking lot of a gas station by two officers in an unmarked car, police said.

He rammed a marked patrol car that responded to the gas station, injuring the officer inside it, before driving off, police said.

Cruz lost control of the vehicle and hit a snowbank a short time later, and then rammed a second police vehicle and crashed into another snowbank, police said. He was subsequently arrested.

“While Cruz was standing up and handcuffed, a Sixth Precinct police officer pushed the arrestee forward from behind and kicked the back of his leg,” Hart said. “The officer who initially pushed Cruz and one other officer kicked Cruz multiple times while he was on the ground.”

Officials did not identify the officers, citing the ongoing investigation, Newsday reported.

Cruz was charged with third-degree grand larceny, second-degree assault, third-degree criminal mischief and resisting arrest. Officials said Cruz is out of jail on supervised release, according to the newspaper.

It was unclear Tuesday night whether Cruz had hired an attorney.

He was taken to a hospital and treated for minor injuries after the arrest. The officer injured in a cruiser and a second officer who police say was injured during the arrest were also treated at a hospital.

Noel Di Gerolamo, president of the Suffolk Police Benevolent Association, told the newspaper he was “troubled by any rush to judgement when talking about an individual who stole a motor vehicle and used it as a weapon to crash into two police cars.”