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Activists compare Raleigh police to gang following man's rough treatment during arrest

Posted January 16, 2020 12:22 p.m. EST
Updated January 16, 2020 6:40 p.m. EST

— Community activists renewed calls Thursday for an oversight board to review use-of-force cases involving the Raleigh Police Department.

The demand comes in the wake of a cellphone video that shows two Raleigh officers kneeing a man several times during an arrest Tuesday.

Police have said the man, identified as 22-year-old Braily Andres Batista-Concepcion, was a suspect in three hit-and-run crashes that morning and was driving erratically when he was pulled over. Then, police said, he ignored repeated commands to put his hands on the steering wheel and then to get out of the car.

Activist Kerwin Pittman said the way Batista-Concepcion was treated was out of proportion to what he was accused of.

The video shows two Raleigh police officers trying to pull Batista-Concepcion out of a car after a traffic stop. One of them knees him in the ribs three times and grabs him by the neck because he won't let go of the steering wheel, and the second officer punches him in the back to finally pry him loose.

After the officers take Batista-Concepcion to the ground outside the car, the video shows the second officer kneeing him in the back at least twice to get him over onto his stomach to handcuff him.

"Was that kind of beating justified for someone who didn't strike back?" Pittman said at a news conference. "Regardless of any alleged offense, the action that was taken against Mr. Batista was totally excessive and totally unwarranted and totally unbecoming of an officer of the law."

Rolanda Byrd, whose son, Akiel Denkins, was fatally shot by a Raleigh police officer four years ago, compared the department to a gang.

"Raleigh is afraid at this point to even come into contact with police," said Byrd, who has repeatedly pushed for an oversight board since Denkins’ death.

Police said they are investigating the incident, and they are seeking a court order allowing them to release publicly footage from the officers' body-worn and dashboard cameras.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman reviewed the police camera video on Thursday and declined to call in the State Bureau of Investigation for an outside review of the incident, police said.

Pittman declined to discuss what occurred before the cellphone video started, and he said Batista-Concepcion didn't comply with officers because he was apprehensive.

"Comply immediately to my threatening demands, you will be beaten," Pittman said when asked what message the cellphone video sends. "You will be beaten regardless if you comply or not."

Batista-Concepion, who didn't speak at the news conference, is charged with two counts of hit-and-run with property damage, failure to report an accident, driving while impaired, resisting a public officer, possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.

The last charges relate to a 16- and a 17-year-old in the car at the time and reference that he allegedly was impaired and had been involved in a couple of crashes.

In addition to demanding a civilian police review board, Pittman called for all charges to be dropped against Batista-Concepcion, that all Raleigh police officers undergo de-escalation and "racial equity" training and that Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown resign if she cannot hold her officers accountable for their actions.

"I'm fed up with it," Pittman said. "I'm tired. It's time for something to be done or for some people to step to the side."

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