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New Body Cam Footage Shows NYPD Started Confrontation With Migrants in Times Square

"Looks like Ugly Betty, eh?" a man says, a moment before an NYPD officer pushes him against the wall.

10:19 PM EST on February 8, 2024

A still from the NYPD body camera footage.

A screenshot from one of the NYPD’s body cameras.

At a Thursday afternoon press conference to announce felony charges against a group of seven migrants for allegedly assaulting two NYPD officers in Times Square late last month, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said that he was "outraged and sickened" by the incident. Mayor Eric Adams, after asserting again that the city was experiencing a "crime wave" spurred on by asylum seekers, said that if the migrants involved in the incident are convicted, "the federal government should do their job in deporting them from our city."

Some of the men who are being charged allegedly grabbed, pulled, or kicked the two officers. Others didn't touch the cops, and are being charged as accessories—one for allegedly kicking an officer's radio, another for allegedly standing by idly and switching clothing with a member of the group. Law enforcement authorities are looking for at least four more people involved in the incident.

Over the last 10 days, media outlets ran video clips and stills of the men fighting with the officers, but it wasn't entirely clear how the altercation out in front of the migrant shelter at 220 West 42nd Street began until Thursday's press conference.

"The precursors are, is that a large group of these males…are standing in front of the shelter and they're blocking 42nd Street, forcing people to walk around them," NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny told reporters on Thursday. "Officers respond, the lieutenant and the police officer in uniform. The crowd is given direction to please disperse, that they're blocking the sidewalk."

According to Kenny and the Manhattan DA's office, a man named Yohenry Brito did not comply.

However, body camera footage released by the DA's office on Thursday reveals multiple contradictions with this account.

"Everybody disperses except for Mr. Brito. He turned around and got confrontational with the police officers. He refused the lawful order," Kenny said. "They attempted to place him under arrest, and the melee begins with the officers trying to take Mr. Brito into custody, and the next thing you know they're being attacked by 13 other people. So, that's how it started."

But that's not what the video shows. 

First, it shows that the sidewalk was not blocked when the officers approached the men. Pedestrians moved freely around the group.

As the officers approach the migrants on the right side, the sidewalk is clearly not being blocked.

"Ah, por favor, como esta, vamos! West 41! West 41!" the NYPD Lieutenant tells the men at the 1:06 mark on his body camera footage. "West 41 Street. Other side. Other side…Move. Move. Vamos."

The men move along. "Don't touch me," one appears to say. It sounds like someone is playing "LUKEANDO REMIX" by Hades 66 and the men all start to sing bars of the song together at the 1:41 mark.

The second major contradiction is that Brito, wearing a yellow jacket, is moving down the sidewalk pushing a baby stroller, seemingly complying with the officers' order to disperse, when he says, "Looks like Ugly Betty, eh?" (The NYPD officer who is not the lieutenant is wearing thick black glasses.)

After Brito's comment, the NYPD lieutenant grabs him and shoves him against the wall. You can see all of this happen at the 0:19 mark of the surveillance video below.

In the lieutenant's body camera footage, it sounds like Brito says, "Hey what's up?" after the lieutenant grabs him. "Why are you stopping me?" Brito asks him, after he's been pushed up against the wall. "That's a little carriage. A carriage for a baby."

After a beat, Brito appears to wriggle his way out of the lieutenant's grasp, and as the other officer runs over to assist in the arrest, the fight begins. You can see the men grapple with the officers in the surveillance video below. The whole struggle lasts under a minute.

We've asked the NYPD and the DA's office about the discrepancies in the account and the camera footage, and will update this post if they respond.

Brito is being charged with two counts of felony assault in the second degree, felony tampering with physical evidence, third degree hindering prosecution, a misdemeanor, and second degree obstructing governmental administration, another misdemeanor. His attorney did not immediately return a request for comment.

While the lieutenant's body camera cuts off after three minutes, the other officer's keeps running long enough to capture a stream of NYPD officers coming to their aid. 

"What happened? We were trying to figure out what happened over the radio," a female officer asks the officer involved in the fight. He tells her they were trying to "clear out" a group of migrants when they were jumped.

"You guys OK?" she asks. "Yeah we're OK" the officer responds.

"Since the very beginning, we've asked people not to rush to judgment based on what they're hearing from the mayor and NYPD, because you see how they've been depicting our communities over the past two years," Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, told Hell Gate. "In this moment though, I am shocked the truth was not shared and they allowed a segment of a clip that did not illustrate the entire of the incident be played 24/7 on every news network."

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