The pictures on a flier posted online showed a 16-year-old boy in a hospital gown with a long, bloody laceration from his cheek to his chin.
The police handling of the Bronx teenager, Jahmel Leach, who was bruised and shocked with a stun gun during the unrest following George Floyd’s death is now under investigation, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The police and Jahmel’s family have given different accounts of why officers used a stun gun on him, and what led to his injuries. His family said he was doing nothing wrong and was beaten by officers in addition to being needlessly shocked.
A police official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing nature of the investigation, said surveillance video captured Jahmel attempting to light rubbish ablaze at least five times at Marion Avenue and East Fordham Road shortly before 9 p.m. on June 1. A second official said Jahmel was using some kind of liquid to try to start the fire.
The video shows uniformed officers arriving, and one of them firing a Taser at Jahmel, who immediately collapsed, his face striking the pavement, according to the first official. The officers then handcuffed him, took him to a precinct station house and then to a hospital shortly afterward, the official said. Jahmel was charged with arson as a juvenile.
For the moment, Jahmel’s case has become the most recent focus for critics who charge the New York police have used unnecessary force against some people during the protests against police brutality.
One action likely to be reviewed is the use of the Taser. The department’s policy for electrical weapons like Tasers says they “should only be used against persons who are actively resisting, exhibiting active aggression or to prevent individuals from physically injuring themselves or other person(s) actually present.” The policy also discourages officers from using them on children, or in the presence of combustible gases or flammable liquids.
Jahmel has not spoken publicly about his arrest but was expected to appear at a news conference Thursday afternoon. Aishah Miller, 38, a cousin of the teenager, said Jahmel has told family members he was part of a peaceful protest when the police pounced on him.
“He was only 16 years old,” Ms. Miller said. “He was with friends. He got separated when police picked him up and beat him badly. He still can’t talk.”
Yamil Miller, another cousin, said that even if the allegations against the teenager prove true, “the way he was handled was unacceptable.”
“No one who comes into custody of the N.Y.P.D. should look like they’ve been to Baghdad,” he said.
During his daily press briefing Thursday morning, the mayor said that the New York Police Department had launched an internal investigation into Mr. Leach’s arrest.
Mr. de Blasio said he personally met with the teenager and was troubled over the allegation of abuse.
“I met the young man, I met his family,” he said. “I’m very concerned.”
The Bronx District Attorney’s Office and the Civilian Complaint Review Board, a city agency that investigates complaints of misconduct by officers, are also investigating the arrest.
An attorney for Jahmel, Mark David Shirian, said he believed the police mistook Jahmel for an adult because of his large physique; he is over 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds. Mr. Shirian also demanded an outside agency conduct the investigation.
“We can’t tolerate this sort of conduct toward children,” Mr. Shirian said. “This is unacceptable. The investigation should be done by an independent, third party.”
On Wednesday night the schools chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, also took to Twitter to echo his concerns over the treatment of Jahmel, whom he identified as a public high school student.
“Earlier this month, @NYCSchools student Jahmel Leach sustained significant injuries — an injured jaw, and cuts, bruises, and swelling all over his body — allegedly in an incident with the NYPD,” Mr. Carranza shared on Twitter. “I am horrified. I know @NYPDNews is now investigating.”
In a message under another post on Twitter, Mr. Carranza said that Mr. Leach and his family have the full support of the school system.
“I need to say as loudly and clearly as possible: there is no place for violence against our students,” he said. “Period.”
Michael Gold contributed reporting.