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.”

RELATED: NYPD COMMISH SAYS HE’S OK WITH OFFICER’S USE OF FORCE

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.

  • thewiserchristopher

    Also, my username is not an attack on you. I have had it for years and it was originally a joke with my friends when we had three Christophers in our circle. Haha. Very coincidental.

  • Talk about an overreaction by cops to a minor infraction! Of course, cops over-react to people of color, too — with similar disregard for human life behind both…This callousness/hate/inhumanity has to stop. Period.

  • Ethan-A police cruiser SUV is “deadly force” by definition: it is just as lethal a weapon as the cop’s service revolver, if not more so.

  • Ethan

    So if a cop fires a gun as a warning 180 degrees away from someone, and the bullet goes in the wrong direction as possible, into a barrel of old telephone books, that was lethal force? Give me a break. It’s potentially, but wasn’t because of how it was used. What the cop did wasn’t lethal. The cyclist was uninjured.

  • Jeff

    How’s going to listen to the Cop with headphones on?Now I agree with you about running the red lights.

  • Jeff

    That’s only with Blacks

  • Jeff

    Excessive? No excessive would have been if the Cop shot him,which I’m surprise they didn’t do. Although I suspect because he was white that’s why they didn’t shoot him

  • Mike Hucul

    I have no problem with what the cop did. The cyclist repeatedly broke the law right in front of the cop and he refused to pull over as requested by the cop, again, repeatedly. The cyclist was saying the rule of law does not apply to him. Perhaps now with a wallet full of traffic citations and a lot less cash he won’t be running red lights in the future. Good job officer.

  • EcoAdvocate

    the police could have let it go. You realize that in the big city at any given moment there are people in CARS running red lights, people driving drunk, thousands of drivers illegally texting/distracted. He would not have had to turn his head and do nothing he could have focused the police resources on something that actually mattered. Speeding distracted drivers kill people.

  • EcoAdvocate

    I hate blocking dbags l like just in coal, because then I can’t flag their next angry, violent post.

  • EcoAdvocate

    you realize that while the officer probably devoted several hours* to this person on a bike doing foolish things (but not crashing), they could have been focused on pulling over several drivers: drunk, dangerous distracted drivers, speeding, aggressive driving, etc. “He broke the law.” Yeah, so what? When a person on a bicycle breaks the law they are primarily putting themselves at risk. When someone in a car does it, people’s lives can be easily on the line.
    If someone is in the park menacing people with an assault rifle and someone else is in the park running with scissors, should the police devote a lot of time on the guy with the scissors, tackling him to get him to stop running? They just let the guy with the assault weapon go free…

  • qrt145

    Following your analogy, I agree that it wouldn’t have been lethal force if the cop had driven his SUV 180 degrees away from the cyclist and crashed into a tree as a warning.

  • Rasmus Richter

    Sometimes I think: Riding a bike in many western countries is the best method for white middle-aged men to get an impression, how racism or sexism must feel…

  • Bill Ryan

    I’m sensing some journalistic bias and factual conflict between the headline and the details…
    “NYPD Used Deadly Force to Stop Cyclist”
    “The cyclist was not injured but the incident”

  • qrt145

    It was potentially deadly force. Do you think the cop is highly skilled at crashing into cyclists while damaging the bike but not harming the cyclist? I think it was just luck (or the cyclist’s skill at jumping out just in time) that it wasn’t worse.

  • Bill Ryan

    “potentially”? And an inch of water is potentially a drowning hazard.
    Wait… isn’t potentially a synonym for possibly or almost?
    So this falls under the category of “almost killed” so we should be “almost concerned”?
    Fair enough… I almost care…

  • Robert Ries

    -I- am a cyclist and I think this one was a complete asshole, and the police were entirely correct.

    “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.”

    If true (and I firmly suspect it is), the Police gave him every chance to comply peacefully, WHILE he was riding in a dangerous and reckless manner, potentially endangering others.

    That has NOTHING to do with any grossely mis-applied angst about ‘1984’. Get bent.

  • Robert Ries

    The police didn’t “crash into” him.

    “used his squad car to cut off a southbound-pedaling cyclist”

    They cut off his lane of travel, and the cyclist rode into THEM.

    Additional evidence that the rider was being an idiot.

  • Robert Ries

    Don’t violate the laws, then ignore the police when they lawfully try to stop you.

    Sound advice for ANY race, gender, or ethnicity.

  • Robert Ries

    The rider repeatedly ran red lights. That puts others at risk…..

  • Robert Ries

    Apparently it’s also illegal to ride with both ears obstructed. Probably for exactly that reason…..

  • Robert Ries

    So, it would be O.K. to drive at 90mph in NYC, while open-carrying my preferred handgun on my AZ carry permit, right?

  • Robert Ries

    Te officer did NOT “ram the bike”. Read the article again. Pulling in front of the vehicle being pursued is a legitimate police tactic, in this case legitimately applied.

  • Robert Ries

    Re-read the article.

  • Robert Ries

    Running red lights, even as a cyclist, puts others at risk without their consent.

  • Robert Ries

    Running red lights, even as a cyclist, puts others at risk without their consent. You don’t know this?

  • Robert Ries

    They used their P.A. system to try to get his attention. He looked at the officers repeatedly.

    I’d say he was intentionally ignoring them.

  • Robert Ries

    Running red lights, even as a cyclist, puts others at risk without their consent.

    Is this beyond your comprehension?

  • Robert Ries

    Running red lights, even as a cyclist, puts others at risk without their consent.

    Why is this so hard to understand?

    They did nothing they would not have done for any motor vehicle, including motorcycles.

  • Robert Ries

    Running red lights, even as a cyclist, puts others at risk without their consent. And it’s quite potentially lethal. Pedestrians have been KILLED by errant cyclists.

  • Graham Toal

    The correct way for the police to request the cyclist to pull over was to pass him and flag him down. Shouting isn’t sufficient as the cyclist may be deaf and using a siren from behind isn’t sufficient because that just means the cyclist stays in his lane and allows a police car to safely pass. If the officer had drawn alongside/marginally in front of the cyclist and issued a clear hand signal to pull over, and *that* was ignored it would certainly appear to be deliberate and the officer would be justified in pulling up some distance in front of the cyclist to force him to stop. Crashing into him as was done was too dangerous. As a cyclist myself who does obey all laws and stop signs, I do get depressed at the number of fellow cyclists who flout the laws and I think that ticketing scofflaw cyclists is warranted, but this cop did not do so safely. Both appeared to be at fault.

  • The BabaDuke

    An NYPD officer used his SUV squad car as a battering ram to stop

    Literally the first line of the article. Maybe don’t go telling others to read the article again when you apparently never read it once to begin with.

    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.

    Also feel free to look at the photo. How does that happen if the cop is simply pulling in front of the bike? If the officer was trying to simply pull in front of the bike, they have no business driving a vehicle because they are clearly incapable of doing so.

  • The BabaDuke

    “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.”

    Straight from the horse’s mouth. No mention of lights or sirens.

    Try reading the article once before asking others to read it again.

  • The BabaDuke

    Hitting cyclists with cars unnecessarily puts others at risk.

    Is this beyond your comprehension?

  • Robert Ries

    If he can’t hear a P.A. system, and ignores the officer directly addressing him, why do you think he’ll respond to lights and siren?

  • Robert Ries

    They didn’t hit the cyclist, the cyclist hit the car.

    The officers pulled in front of him to get him to stop, after repeated attempts at peaceful interaction were ignored.

  • Robert Ries

    And literally THREE sentences later the author steps back from the lie/hyperbole: “”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.”

    i.e., the officer pulled in front of the cyclist, and the idiot cyclist didn’t stop in time.

    Did you know that pedestrians have been KILLED by cyclist riding recklessly?

    “How does that happen if the cop is simply pulling in front of the bike?”

    Ever crashed a bike? They bounce around a lot, and often end up in very odd positions/locations. It’s happened to me numerous times on- and off-road.

  • Joe R.

    Not one case of a pedestrian being killed by a cyclist in NYC was caused by a cyclist passing a red light. Not one. There’s no safety or other reason to require cyclists to stop at red lights all the time. Red lights should be allowed to be treated as yields by both pedestrians and cyclists.

    Also, your line of thought can be applied to jaywalking pedestrians. They have caused cyclists to crash, and yet there’s no contingent of people crying that they’re breaking the law. Traffic lights are primarily for large motor vehicles. They were never designed for either bikes or pedestrians.

  • Joe R.

    A bike isn’t a motor vehicle and there is no evidence beyond the cop’s word that the cyclist was even passing red lights. This cop has a known history of giving cyclists false tickets.

  • Joe R.

    There’s no safe way to force a cyclist to stop. If the cop did as you said, the cyclist can easily stop, do a quick 180, ride off the opposite direction, make a turn on the next side street, then perhaps go down alleys or other places a car can’t follow.

    Also, why is there such an impetus to stop this particular cyclist? If he ran a red light and hit someone, yes, that justifies trying to stop him. If he just jaybiked a red light who cares? He did nothing most cyclists and nearly every pedestrian in NYC safely does every single day. Read up on natural law sometime. The general principal is that no legal sanctions can be given to someone unless there is loss of life, loss of property, or injury. None of these occurred here.

  • Joe R.

    Correction—a lot more cash. He has a good lawsuit and will likely walk away with a wad of cash. Hopefully the officer will be fired and lose his pension. There was no crime here. He didn’t kill or injure anyone. He didn’t take any property. What exactly was the justification for even trying to stop him? Read up on natural law sometime. You can’t have laws which sanction people when no actual harm is done. Chasing a cyclist who passed a red light AND hit someone falls under something which merits police action. Just passing a red light doesn’t.

  • Joe R.

    This nonsense about bikes and traffic laws has been going on forever. The very definition of insanity is to doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. All I ever hear about from lots of bike haters is “blah, blah blah, go through red lights, blah, blah, balh, go through stop signs, blah, blah, blah, ride the wrong way, etc.” Does anybody ever bother to ask if it even makes sense for many car laws to apply to cyclists, and also why cyclists continue to do these things, even in the face of heavy enforcement? To me getting cyclists to obey traffic laws designed for cars is like drilling a hole in water.

    Here’s some history. Back in the early 20th century roads were improved, largely due to the efforts of cyclists (who were called wheelmen at the time). Then cars came and started usurping these roads in large numbers. In fact, the paved roads the cyclists help get built unfortunately enabled faster adoption of motor vehicles. Anyway, eventually drivers started considering cyclists in the road a nuisance. They felt the same about pedestrians, which is why they were eventually shunted off the side and forced to use sidewalks. A truce of sorts was reached when it was agreed that cyclists could continue to use the roads, provided they obeyed the same traffic laws as cars and trucks. Whether or not this made any sense wasn’t even given much thought. However, traffic was relatively light at the time. There were few stop signs and even fewer traffic signals, so obeying car laws wasn’t particularly onerous to cyclists. Basically, they mostly had to ride in the direction of traffic, which is the safest way to ride anyway, and have lights at night (again, a good thing for safety).

    Nobody at the time every anticipated that eventually we would have either stop signs or traffic signals at virtually every intersection in NYC. As the number of these traffic control devices increased, cyclist compliance with them went down for obvious reasons. It’s easy to stop for red lights if you only hit one every 3 miles. It’s difficult to impossible if you hit one every three blocks. Besides that, by starting out with the pack of cars you’re placing yourself in more danger than just going through the light. The Netherlands realized all this, removed as many traffic lights from bike routes as possible, and often routed them over or under particularly busy intersections. The goal was both safety and to avoid cyclist delay. Cyclists in the Netherlands obey the few red lights they encounter because doing so isn’t overly burdensome.

    The bottom line is we need to start acknowledging that the laws make no sense, and also that we need a lot more non-stop or nearly non-stop bike infrastructure. What we’re doing obviously isn’t working, and can never work.

  • Joe R.

    Repeating the same nonsense a gazillion times like you’re doing doesn’t make it true.

  • The BabaDuke

    Bearing in mind the cyclist had earphones in his ears (read the article, for fuck’s sake) I’d count out auditory signals. Earphones don’t block out lights, though.

    Read the fucking article.

  • The BabaDuke

    Did you know that cyclists have been KILLED by cars hitting them?

    I’ve never crashed a bike and had it “bounce” backwards and wedge itself in a wheel well. If you can convince yourself that that is what occurred here, it’s no surprise to me that you can convince yourself that the cop is not the bad guy in this situation, as reality doesn’t seem to be your strong suit.

  • The BabaDuke

    There’s a photo, ya fuckin’ numpty. The bike being wedged in the car’s rear wheel well doesn’t square with the laws of physics under your scenario.

  • Stephen Simac

    If cycling makes one a second class citizen, then walking (or wheelchairing) is truly third class.

  • Wong Chia Chi

    I wasnt gonna say this but…a lot of upper middle class white people in NYC are just dicks that don’t think rules apply to them. You’ll tell them that they shouldn’t be doing something and they’ll just look at you and keep doing it and expect nothing to happen to them. Then when they have to deal with consequences they want to get outraged.

    That’s why they bring their dogs EVERYWHERE. Even in restuarants and grocery stores where it’s fucking unsanitary and disgusting. That’s why they constantly bitch about stopping to ID themselves to security in buildings but God Forbid that something should happen then they would blame security for not checking who comes into the building.

    I hate the NYPD but this guy is an asshole too. I’ve seen white cyclists who keep riding into cars that have stopped for people walking with strollers and insist they have the right of way.

    I bike ride too and I still stop for lights. And I’ve told people doing that or riding on sidewalks or against the flow of traffick that they can get ticketed for that and they just keep doing it.

    You may not like the rules and you may get away with breaking them but if someone has sufficient authority tells you to you do have to follow them.

    The few times I’ve seen a cyclist get hit it was the cyclists fault and not the driver’s.

  • thielges

    Indian streets may seem chaotic to our American eyes. But once you get accustomed to how it works you will find that it isn’t as crazy as it seems. It is different for sure, perhaps more dangerous than American customs, but not nearly as bad as it looks at first glance.

  • The Apple Pan

    I imagine living in Georgia you wouldn’t see too many giant trucks ignoring red lights in NYC — nobody’s eyesight is that good! If you lived in NYC however, you would see it everyday, multiple times a day.

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