A man accused of shoplifting and a department store security officer attempting to place him in custody were arrested Friday evening after police reviewed video captured by a witness and deemed the officer used “excessive efforts,” authorities said.
Officers arrested 19-year-old Victor Roberson and 24-year-old Acosta Wilson after responding to a 911 call about an assault taking place outside the Century 21 at 22 Cortlandt St. in the Financial District around 8:45 p.m.
In a video taken by witness Brian Fraser and reviewed by police, three security personnel in black suits are seen pinning Roberson to the sidewalk as he cries out, “I can’t breathe” multiple times. One man appears to hold Roberson’s throat with two hands and then strike him with a closed fist.
“Just as I started to record, they tackled him and threw him to the ground,” said Fraser, 37, who was walking toward the Fulton Street train station when he heard sounds of an altercation and began recording the incident. “His arms were held behind his back by one security guard … one was holding him down, and the other actually started to choke and punch him and start to cover his mouth.”
Fraser estimates the incident drew a crowd of about 20 to 30 witnesses to the scene.
“Things started to escalate because the crowd saw that [security personnel] were acting in an overly aggressive manner,” he said.
A woman is overheard in the video screaming, “What are you doing to this black man? I’m calling the cops,” while the personnel appear to drag Roberson along the sidewalk.
Store employees told police that Roberson had stashed merchandise, at a total value of $800, in his backpack before exiting the store and setting off the retail security alarm at the door.
That’s when Acosta followed Roberson out and assaulted him, police said.
Paramedics transported Roberson to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where he was treated after complaining of neck and back pain, according to the NYPD. After his release at 9:11 p.m., police transported him back to precinct headquarters and charged him with petit larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.
Two hours later, officers also arrested Acosta. They charged him with assault after reviewing Fraser’s video and deeming the security guard’s efforts “excessive.”
“It was scary to see him be assaulted,” said Fraser, a portrait photographer who lives in Jersey City. “It just kind of triggers what’s been going on time and time again in terms of not caring for people of color and treating them like they’re animals, and punching and kicking them. That’s the issue that I have.”
Acosta’s employer, Century 21, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its typical security practices and Acosta’s actions.