Vendor arrested for selling candy in the subway plans to sue city

Byron Shark, center, stands with his laywer, Sanford Rubenstein, in Harlem on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.

Byron Shark is seeking $5 million in damages from the city and its police department.

The vendor arrested for selling candy in a Harlem subway station last week plans to sue the city.

Byron Shark, 26, said he was stopped and beaten by police on the northbound platform of the 125th Street station serving the 4/5/6 lines for illegally vending in the subway last Tuesday. His forceful arrest was caught on camera in a viral video.

Shark is seeking $5 million in damages from the city and its police department, claiming new injuries that exacerbated previous surgeries to his back, leg and ankle.

“[Shark] was the victim of the use of excessive force by four police officers on the subway platform at the 125th Street station in East Harlem, captured on video when he was violently thrown to the ground and pounced on by all four officers,” said Sanford Rubenstein, Shark’s attorney. “His recovery from prior back and ankle surgery has been stymied and he has suffered new injuries to those areas and other areas of his body as well.”

Shark, of Harlem, was arrested after failing to comply with officers who stopped him and asked for his identification, according to NYPD Transit Chief Edward Delatorre. Ultimately he was charged with “obstructing governmental administration.”

“Our officers took this man into custody after he failed to comply and refused to provide identification as they attempted to issue him a summons for a transit violation,” Delatorre tweeted at the time.

The incident was one of several viral videos that have circulated social media in recent weeks depicting rough arrests in the subway system. The posts have stoked concerns of over-policing as the MTA, under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s direction, moves to hire 500 new cops to tackle “quality of life” issues like fare evasion, homelessness and worker safety.

Criminal justice advocates joined Shark, his father, Minister Ricardo Shark, and Rubenstein in Harlem Tuesday to call for police to ease up on enforcing nonviolent crimes.

“I just want to say that we really won’t rest until we get justice, until we get respect for all vendors,” said Shark. “I feel like the police should be less violent, and they should be focusing more on criminals who are actually violent.”

Local State Senator Brian Benjamin said Shark’s arrest appeared “stop-and-frisk-ish” and that police should not be wasting resources on petty crimes.

“They’re just trying to make a living and they’re not harming anybody,” said Benjamin. “Police should be focused on public safety issues.”

The MTA prohibits selling food in the subway system. After several widely circulated videos of vendors being arrested in the transit system, Mayor de Blasio suggested that the transit authority set up designated zones for food sales.

Activists for now are focused on policing. The Rev. Kevin McCall, founder of the Crisis Access Center, said Tuesday that Delatorre agreed to meet with him and others to discuss policing in the subway.

“We have to be able to find a solution…you stand clear of the closing doors—now you have to make sure that you stand clear of a police officer on the train,” McCall said.

Vincent Barone