NEW YORK (1010 WINS/WCBS 880) -- A police officer at one of the largest men’s shelters in New York City was suspended after video emerged showing him striking a migrant from Venezuela this week, officials said Thursday.
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The Department Of Homeless Services Police officer, who has not been identified, was suspended following a preliminary review, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Social Services.
The DSS said it is conducting a “full investigation” and cooperating with the district attorney’s office.
“Protecting the health and safety of our clients and staff is our top priority at all times and we do not tolerate any violence or misconduct against our clients,” the spokesperson said.
“Our staff are trained to lead with care and compassion at all times, and we work closely with all our clients to ensure that we are maintaining open lines of communication and addressing any concerns as they arise,” the spokesperson continued.
The altercation reportedly happened around 6 a.m. Wednesday at the Bedford-Atlantic Armory men’s shelter in Crown Heights.
Video shot by a resident shows the migrant, Meiver Martinez, yelling in Spanish, “Don’t hit me,” and kicking a locker before the officer strikes him in the cheek, the New York Times reported.
Martinez, 21, told the paper that the officer had been harassing him for being too slow to get out of bed after he returned to the shelter past curfew following a shift as a cleaner at an Orthodox Jewish school.
Martinez said that after the officer struck him, “about eight officers jumped on him, kicked him, punched him and used a stun gun on him three times,” according to the Times.
Martinez said he was cuffed and taken away in an ambulance but hadn’t been charged with a crime. The DSS confirmed that he wasn’t in custody
Martinez is an asylum seeker who arrived in the city about a month ago from Venezuela. He's one of of thousands of asylum seekers who've enter the city's shelter system this summer. Officials have scrambled to accommodate them.
As of late August, nearly 7,600 migrants had been bused directly from Texas to New York City at the orders of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, according to Mayor Eric Adams.
Abbott has been in a political feud with Adams, who has vowed to “welcome newcomers with open arms” even as the shelter system has swelled by more than 5,000 residents in a matter of weeks.
Abbott, a Republican who is up for reelection in the fall, claimed his state was “overwhelmed” by migrants. He said he believed they’d be better off in sanctuary cities like New York.
Abbott has also been busing asylum seekers to Chicago and Washington, D.C. On Thursday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared an emergency in response to the influx.