New York, NY -- Jonathan Rodriguez and Willy Lopez have announced a lawsuit this week after video showed NYPD Captain Emilio Melendez kick and stomp a memorial to their late friend. The unapologetic cop's actions are nothing less than infuriating and are a testament to the callous and disturbing nature of many police officers.
Lopez and Rodriguez had set up the memorial that day -- lighting candles and laying out flowers -- to pay tribute to their friend who died in a tragic motorcycle accident. As they remembered their friend, Melendez and several other officers approached them and ordered them to leave the area, according to the lawsuit filed in the Bronx Supreme Court this month.
As the video shows, the men had put out memorial candles, cards, letters, a flag and a teddy bear when Melendez began verbally accosting them, calling them criminals. According to the video and the lawsuit, Melendez began “kicking and crushing the candles, smashing and stomping the cards and other items and sweeping all the items in the memorial with his foot toward the street."
The officer couldn't have cared less about the men documenting his cruelty either and the video was subsequently posted to YouTube where it went viral.
“I will not have a fire on my block,” Melendez said referring to the candle. But it was Melendez's actions that created a fire risk ask he kicked the open flame over into the cards and flowers.
As the NY Post reports,
The incident coincided with the annual Dominican Day Parade, which perhaps had the officers on edge, said Barton, who insisted that local cops are familiar with the tradition of sidewalk and street memorials.
“They well know the practice here,” he said. “I think it’s in everybody’s interest, the community’s interest, that we respect it.”
Lopez said he was falsely arrested for disorderly conduct as he left the area, and both men are suing the city, the NYPD and Melendez for unspecified damages, claiming “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
The NYPD said it would review the lawsuit when it received it.
“Damn, couldn't he go about it in a different way? If this guy doesn't have enough discernment to realize that's a memorial of the dead and destroying it could obviously create backlash, he shouldn't be in the position he's in,” wrote one Facebook user, Ebony Mosheh, at the time the video was released. “And this goes for all of law enforcement. SMH!”
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A Twitter user, @solaunicadeyna, wrote, “Disgusting behavior by Capt Melendez - why are cops so disrespectful but yet want empathy! This is not how you build relationships with your community.”
While the actions of the officer in the video above may seem shocking, the NYPD is no stranger to mocking memorials -- even ones to people they've killed.
As TFTP reported, Eric Garner was killed by NYPD officers on video. The video shows the officer placing Garner in a choke hold, while a group of other officers force Garner to the ground. Garner, who reportedly suffered from asthma, died after repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe.”
The words, "I can't breathe" became iconic as a memorial to the man who was killed on video over the alleged act of selling loose cigarettes without first paying taxes on them. Professional athletes and movie stars alike took to wearing shirts with these words inscribed across the chest as a memorial to the late father of six.
However, in an effort to figuratively stomp on this memorial, NYPD officers had shirts made up to mock the last words of a man they killed.
As TFTP reported at the time, after they killed Garner, the NYPD police union had shirts made up to mock the dying man's last words. the images of police officers wearing shirts that said, "I can breathe," began to surface, infuriating the nation, and rightfully so.
If police officers wish to be taken seriously and want respect, mocking or destroying memorials to dead people -- even ones they have killed -- is the exact opposite way to go about it.