NYPD Used Deadly Force to Stop Cyclist Suspected of Running Red Light

This is not OK, regardless of what NYPD Commissioner James O'Neil says. Photo: Rich Garvey
This is not OK, regardless of what NYPD Commissioner James O'Neil says. Photo: Rich Garvey

I’m running you over to protect you!

An NYPD officer used his SUV squad car as a battering ram to stop a earbud-wearing Citi Bike rider who had allegedly run two red lights and ignored an order to pull over— and then the NYPD justified the deadly force by saying the agency “vigorously supports Vision Zero,” which is supposed to champion safe driving and the protection of the city’s most vulnerable road users.

How you view the bizarre sequence of events likely depends on how dangerous you believe cyclists are. Statistics show that virtually every road fatality has been caused by drivers of cars and trucks — but the NYPD continues to enforce traffic laws in a manner that suggests cops often see bicycle riders as a more-serious threat to the public.

This much is certain: At around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, a Ninth Precinct officer used his squad car to cut off a southbound-pedaling cyclist in a painted bike lane on Avenue A near E. Seventh Street. The cyclist was not injured but the incident was violent and sudden enough to cause the Citi Bike to become lodged inside the squad car’s rear wheel well.

When the unprotected cyclist objected to how he was run into by the cop, the unidentified officer explained his use of deadly force with a monologue reminiscent of the passage from “1984”: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength” (video below).

“I put out my hand for you to stop,” the cop told the cyclist, who told witnesses his name is Blake. “You acknowledged me, but continued to keep going. I yelled out, ‘Stop,’ and you looked back at me and continued to keep going. Then, we entered the car to stop you after viewing what I believe to be reckless activity — going through red lights, wearing two earphones — I followed you down St. Marks Place and then you run another red light. … Then I go over the loudspeaker and say, ‘Bicyclist, stop!’ Again, you look over and acknowledge and continue to keep going. Now, at this point, you’re [going to be] forcibly stopped. Because now you’re riding recklessly, and you’re refusing to stop after multiple lawful orders that you acknowledged. So I am going to use whatever means necessary to stop you, OK? And that’s for your safety.”


Let the record show that several people in the crowd of onlookers laughed out loud at that point. “This was for my safety?” the cyclist asked.

The officer continued, “Yes. This is for your safety. It absolutely is.”

The cyclist told the officer that he used far too much force — so much force, in fact, that the tire broke off from the Citi Bike. “Officer, you have a bullet-proof armored door. Do you understand how heavy that is?”

His protestations went for naught.

Streetsblog reached out to the NYPD for a reminder on when officers are allowed to use deadly force, but was given only the following statement from spokeswoman Detective Sophia Mason:

The NYPD vigorously supports Vision Zero and promotes safety for pedestrians, motorists, bicyclists. The N.Y.P.D. is also implementing the NYC Citywide Bicycle Safe Passage Plan. In this incident, police officers observed the cyclist committing multiple traffic infractions and issued summonses for running through two steady red lights, operating a bicycle while having both headphones fastened to his ears, and failing to comply with a lawful order. When approached by officers, the individual jumped his bike and it became wedged in between the police vehicle and a parked vehicle.

The agency declined to answer follow-up questions, including how the officers “approached” and how the bicycle became “wedged.”

The officer’s behavior appears to violate NYPD standards. According to the NYPD patrol guide, “The primary duty of all members of the service is to protect human life, including the lives of individuals being placed in police custody.”

NYPD officers are allowed to use force to protect themselves and others from loss of life, but the patrol guide makes it clear that using deadly force must be commensurate with the circumstances:

Force may be used when it is reasonable to ensure the safety of a member of the service or a third person, or otherwise protect life, or when it is reasonable to place a person in custody or to prevent escape from custody. In all circumstances, any application or use of force must be reasonable under the circumstances. If the force used is unreasonable under the circumstances, it will be deemed excessive and in violation of department policy.

The NYPD declined to tell Streetsblog if the incident in question is under investigation. It is important to note that the collision with the cyclist comes as Mayor de Blasio has ordered the NYPD and Department of Transportation to draw up emergency plans to protect bike riders — 15 of whom have been killed by drivers this year.

The NYPD responded by announcing a three-week ticket blitz that it says is aimed a reckless drivers and those who park in bike lanes. The DOT will announce its plan later this month.

It’s obviously not the first time that the NYPD has been accused of using excessive force against cyclists. Earlier this year, after a cyclist was killed by a truck driver in Midtown, a subsequent crackdown against cyclists led to an NYPD officer tackling a bike rider to get him to stop — an incident that led to a massive protest at the Midtown North stationhouse.

Roughly a dozen cyclists have been killed since that protest in February.

  • MOONKNIGHT !!!!!!

    Hum I think the broken windows theory of policing works . I see the point you’re making, but if cyclists are dying then you have to show some kind of enforcement. As for the other ones I mentioned, I’m 43 born and raised in brooklyn and I can’t ever remember a time that cops were not giving out tickets for being the park after dark . The point being if it’s illegal and your doing it don’t be mad when your stopped for it. Cops should have more common sense on when to use discretion. But when your told to do something by a cop just do it. Less problems that way . Hence this incident

  • Joe R.

    Cyclists are dying because they’re being hit by cars and trucks. That pretty much tells me who the cops need to go after. The current policy is like the police responding to an increase in rapes by issuing tickets to women who are scantily clad. A study in London showed that zero cyclist deaths were attributed to cyclists passing red lights, so any argument that red light ticketing protects cyclists from themselves goes right out the window. Also, protecting people from themselves is something the state shouldn’t do anyway. That’s the first step on the road to tyranny.

    Cops should have more common sense on when to use discretion.

    The operative word is should. Most don’t, especially when it’s near the end of the month and they need to meet their ticket quotas. If cops stuck to ticketing only cyclists who either hit people or buzzed people at high speeds while going through red lights nobody here would have much of a problem with it. Same with being in parks after dark. If you’re behaving yourself, no ticket. If you’re doing drugs and being rowdy, you get a ticket and you get ejected from the park.

    It’s worth a mention this particular cop has a history of giving bogus tickets. It could be that’s what happened here. I would run from what I know is a bogus ticket myself. In court the judge always believes the cop, so I would stand no chance fighting it. At the very least we should require cops to have video of any incident where they give tickets to prove their side of it. That would stop the bogus ticketing.

  • MOONKNIGHT !!!!!!

    Bogus tickets? How do you know that? It does not really matter. Don’t run from the cops , that is why said he should have been taken in. Motorists get plenty of tickets. The cop was told to write tickets to cyclists so can u blame him for doing so. Discretion is a funny thing. Imagine u were a cop and I stop someone in the park after dark and they are “behaving” themselves but they are an asshole . Why I mean is they tell u your wrong for stopping them and give I a hard time. This happens all the time nd result in people getting tickets. If it’s just a regular person and they are reasonable they shouldn’t get the summons.

  • Joe D

    I’m both a driver and a cyclist and find drivers far more dangerous than cyclists. All the deaths caused by distracted drivers as well as drunken drivers bear this out.

  • Joe D

    I think their hatred goes far beyond cyclists, they probably have a lengthy list of people they hate. I don’t buy , “I love everyone, but I hate cyclists” It’s a pathological affliction. Probably a bunch of Trumpanzees.

  • Joe D

    Careful, you’ll get him so worked up he’ll go vigilante on some cyclist and run them into a ditch, if he has not already done so.

  • Disqustd

    Police abusing citizens in America? It’s more likely than you think.

  • T Jensen

    Get the maniac* off the street.

    *of course I’m not talking about the cyclist. ANYONE in a car who deliberately slams into a two-wheeled vehicle should be in a rubber room under strict observation and drugged into a stupor deep enough they can’t do any damage.

  • If you can’t follow the rules of the road, please stay off it. Your fancy shoes are not an excuse. If it is too much trouble to detach the shoes, then you need to be wearing different footwear when you’re cycling on the street.
    No, bicycles are not cars, but there is ONE standard for using public roads. One. Either abide by it like the rest of us, petition your government to make a separate set of laws for cyclists, or stay off the road.
    Can you imagine if drivers used the same logic as you? “Well all the stopping causes wear on my brakes, so to stop for no reason doesn’t make sense.” Oh and how many “very careful” cyclists who “always check for cross traffic” have hit or been hit by a car they didn’t see? How many drivers have to live with the image of a cyclist flying through the air or going under their wheels? Is that fair to them?
    No sir, your fancy shoes for your fixed-gear toy are absolutely no excuse for you to not obey the same traffic laws as everyone else who wants to use the road and be part of traffic. You guys like to say “share the road?” Happy to, as long as we’re all playing by the same rules. And having one set of rules for everyone is common sense. You guys just don’t appreciate traffic laws getting in the way of your workout. If you need to get your cardio in so bad, get a Peloton.

  • Robin Casey

    New York cops are friggin racists.. in Israel the cop would have faced trial for reckless misuse of his status. You could have stopped the rider without running into him you damn moronic cops

  • jrwill58

    What if the cyclist just finished raping someone and he would not stop for the police. Just let him pedal away.? If one decides too ride a bike on our hiways and biways, then they must also follow the rules of the road and stop when Police direct you to stop. Riding a bike does not give you the right to ignore Police.

  • jrwill58

    What an asshole thing to say.

  • Jerry Wenzel

    I cycle a lot and coast thru stop signs when there is no other traffic in sight. I may coast through stop signs but I believe most auto drivers exceed the speed limit on a regular basis, When was the last time you exceeded the speed limit 1 finger?

  • Jeremy Shaw

    Was the rapist’s summary judgement “execution”? I don’t recall the United States legalizing summary judgements and executions. Do you have proof the rapist actually raped someone, or are you just another clown who confuses vengeance with justice?

  • Jeremy Shaw

    That doesn’t matter. He TRIED to hit him, and he TRIED to assault a cyclist with an automobile. The cyclist could have easily been killed for a MINOR INFRACTION, if that. How is this SO hard to get through so many peoples’ heads? WE DO NOT MURDER PEOPLE FOR MISDEMEANORS OR LESS. We DO NOT ALLOW summary judgement and executions. Police are OUT OF CONTROL in many ways beyond this particular issue, and it is time to change policing culture. Long past time.

  • Freakin’ never. I have one of those tracker things from my insurance co. in the car. Gotta save $$$ anywhere I can.

  • MOONKNIGHT !!!!!!


  • Joe Harvey

    Quit pretending to take the moral high ground and act like you’re “understanding” or sympathetic to others. If you were something other than a bootlicker you would understand why defending pigs is morally reprehensible. When it comes to supporting these class traitors that uphold a system of racist and economic oppression, usually it’s people’s white privilege that prevents them from seeing the real issue.

  • Joe Harvey

    Solving social and economic issues in this country would be astoundingly simple. We are the richest nation in the world. We could feed every hungry mouth, house every homhomeless person, treat every single person with adequate medical care, provide higher education, jobs that pay a living wage so people aren’t working full time and still in poverty. Literally every issue could be solved by curbing the insatiable corporate greed that is American Capitalism. Tax the rich, stop corporate tax loopholes and oh yeah, maybe spend our tax dollars on these issues which have a direct impact on the lives of the taxpayers instead of just giving 2/3 of it to the miltary industrial complex. Imagine if like I don’t know, literally EVERY OTHER industrialized nation in the world, our taxes went to providing health care, infrastructure, education and social services instead of making corporations and especially defense contractors richer so we can find ever more efficient ways of killing poor people in other countries.

  • MOONKNIGHT !!!!!!

    ok. So no cops? No listening to cops cus then you are a “boot licker” (apparently your favorite word)
    What your getting at is what? Your point is not coming across and you seem to have a lot of anger

  • MOONKNIGHT !!!!!!

    Sounds like the cyclist was out of control

  • MOONKNIGHT !!!!!!

    “pigs” Have you had some bad experiences with cops yourself?

  • Jeremy Shaw

    OH NO! An “out of control” cyclist!! CALLING ALL POINTS! Someone get a long range weapon and take him dowwwwwn before innocent people are killlllled am I right knuckledragger?

    It is NEVER ok to try to kill or try to kill someone for minor infractions. Our police are out of control, and just because this seems normal doesn’t make it ok. Many normal things in America are abnormal in general.

  • Jeremy Shaw

    If its “dont stop get shot” when the law does not proscribe this, then it is only reasonable to allow citizens to defend themselves similarly. “Vigilante cop was going to shoot me, so I defended myself and my family, ending their life” works for me. Does that sort of chaos work for you, or should we maybe fix cop culture?

  • Jeremy Shaw

    Here is a crazy one for you: we don’t live in a country where cops are allowed to execute or to attempt to execute people for failing to stop their bikes, or stop running, or whatever the issue is aside from actual self defense. A judge and jury decides punishment, NOT some poorly trained and educated, potentially racist cop. Get that through your thick skulls.

  • MOONKNIGHT !!!!!!

    No need for name calling. Right? We are trying to listen to each other ? Talking things out like civilized people? If you were in that cops shoes what would I have done? You try several times to stop someone for committing a minor infraction and they refuse a lawful order by you to stop. Now u have a decision to make let them go or stop them ? Now if u let them go they could be endangering pedestrians walking in the crosswalks. You must all so take in to account why the person is fleeing. Do they have an open warrant? What is it for ? If you let them go and they committed a rape and have a warrant for that dose it fall in you if they commits another rape ? The cop did not try and kill the person. He successfully stoped the person. Without causing an injury to pedestrians, the person fleeing from the police and himself. Normal is a strange word . What you think is normal is going to differ from what others consider normal. You consider normal calling people names online. I don’t find it normal .

  • Christopher Allen
  • Robert Ries

    I’ve been riding recreationally AND competitively, since 1985, living in 3 countries, on 3 continents, and all over the U.S.

    I see cyclists run red lights all the damn time. Sometimes they look. Sometimes they don’t.

    That is a FACT. Deal with it any way you need to.

  • Robert Ries



    Oh, wait, you were serious?!

    How long have you been riding?

  • Robert Ries

    There was far MORE than ONE example there…..

    And that very much DOES “prove (my) point”. Facts do that.

  • Robert Ries

    If you looked at how I generally critique police, you’d choke on your idiocy.

  • Joe R.

    Finding more than one lightning strike doesn’t prove that lightning strikes are a common cause of death. Finding more than one example of a person killed by a cyclist going through a red light doesn’t prove that doing so is statistically dangerous. There may well be just as many deaths from pedestrians colliding with each other. The mechanism for everyone killed by a bike is the same. The person falls and happens to hit their head in such a way that TBI leads to death. The same type of injury can occur when anything else causes a person to fall. However, this type of injury is relatively rare. That’s why cyclists killing pedestrians are so rare. Cyclists lack the speed and mass to cause death by blunt force trauma to major organs as motor vehicles do.

    The point is that cyclists passing red lights aren’t a hazard in any statistical sense. Most look before passing, and *don’t* collide with pedestrians.

  • Ken Grant

    The cyclist was in the wrong and deliberately forced a confrontation. I support cyclist rights, but I’m surprised that StreetsBlog would condone a cyclist’s illegal and unsafe behavior. This was the wrong incident to use to demonstrate police misconduct – it only demonstrates cyclist misconduct. (And BTW your headline is inaccurate: running the red light was actually witnessed, not “suspected.”)

  • Mypal Footfoot

    So you feel that the bicyclist’s possible death is good police procedure? You sound as mentally retarded as that piece of schit cop. Please get cancer and die soon before you harm those around you.

  • Christopher

    This makes me glad I don’t live in NYC. Since NYPD Police Commissioner James O’Neil doesn’t care. I doubt NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo cares, either.

  • Christopher

    It also doesn’t give the police. Free reign to stop a cyclist, for the cyclist’s safety. By using potential vehicular manslaughter.

  • 1966johnnywayne

    I didn’t say “laws are set out for everyone’s safety”, I said “observe THE laws that are set out for everyone’s safety”. I believe that few would disagree that failing to stop at a red light puts people in potential danger.

  • Joseph Santiago

    I am glad I moved to Amsterdam.

  • bacchys

    Just because a shooting seemed wrong doesn’t mean it wasn’t ruled justified by the cops who “investigate.”

  • Tony_Stroppa

    I was picking up what you were putting down until you got to the point of literally wishing someone’s death over having an opposing opinion. At that point it dawned on me that maybe you were a psychopath and no one should listen to you. Ever. On that note I wish you all the best, and maybe think a little more before you post.

    (Just to be clear, I agree that risking that or any cyclist’s death or serious injury in this kind of situation was or would be good police procedure. There’s a reason they call police cars a “4000-pound bullet”)