Police union leaders on Long Island said Wednesday they are standing behind two officers who were caught on camera allegedly beating a New York man during a traffic stop and say the officers may have been justified because the 20-year-old suspect resisted arrest.
The Nassau County police officers, identified in records as Vincent Logiuduce and Basil Gomez, are currently under investigation by the police department’s internal affairs unit, officials have said, and the Nassau County district attorney’s office has also opened an investigation. Nassau County PBA President James Carver said the two cops – who he described as highly decorated officers – have received numerous awards in the past. He said they both remain out of work because of “line of duty injuries.” The department has not officially commented on the officers’ current duty assignments.
The officers are under scrutiny after a surveillance video surfaced last week that appears to show officer allegedly brutalizing 20-year-old Kyle Howell after he was pulled over at the intersection of Union Avenue and Covert Street in Westbury on April 25. The video, which Howell’s attorneys retrieved from a nearby store, is partially obscured by a reflection on the windshield, but shows Howell speaking with the officers briefly before the cops start punching and kicking someone inside the car.
"What's not seen here in the video is what the struggle is going on inside that car with the police officers, the reaching, the potential that there could be a weapon inside that car that he's reaching for," Carver said. In court documents, the officers allege they had a “violent struggle” with Howell after he tried to swallow a bag of marijuana. They say Howell punched and kicked them before resisting arrest. Howell, who says he was reaching for his paycheck that was starting to fly out of the open passenger-side door, has denied the allegations.
“These two police officers acted in a way, professionally, to try to place the subject under arrest as provided by law,” Carver said. “This subject repeatedly refused to comply with the police officers’ orders – lawful orders.” He pointed to Howell’s prior criminal history, saying the Westbury man “is not a choir boy.” Howell confirmed last week he has been previously arrested for marijuana possession and petit larceny.
Howell has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges stemming from the incident last month, which include felony assault, tampering with evidence, resisting arrest and drug possession. His lawyers are now seeking to have the charges dropped. During an appearance Tuesday at the Nassau County Court, his lawyer, Amy Marion, said it was “a travesty of justice” that the charges were not immediately dropped. A prosecutor said in court Tuesday they were still investigating and the district attorney’s office had no comment Wednesday. A Nassau judge said he wanted to review the video before the case is back in court next week.