Did NYPD officers beat up teen?

Honor student suffered fractured orbital bone
February 22, 2008 11:43:06 AM PST
A high school senior is making some very serious allegations against the NYPD. He claims he was brutally beaten by officers for spray-painting graffitti.The teen ended up in emergency surgery with a fractured orbital bone around his eye socket.

The Investigators' Sarah Wallace has the exclusive story.

The official version of the NYPD is brief, that 18-year-old Steven Arroyo attempted to evade arrest, was chased, tackled and incurred an injury. There is no further explanation of what "incurred" means. The teenager claims he incurred a fist.

Sarah: "You started to run?"
Arroyo: "Yeah."

Arroyo took us back to the Bronx corner where he says he was grabbed by two plainclothes officers after they spotted him scrawling graffiti on a lightpole.

Hours later, he would need emergency surgery to repair a factured orbital bone around his left eye.

"They kept saying, 'Oh, you like to run,'" he said. "'You're a runner, huh?'"

He says he ran when an unmarked car raced toward him.

Sarah: "So they come out, you start to run because you don't know they are cops?" Arroyo: "No, I did not know they were cops."

He says he stopped running once they identified themselves.

"That's when I fell on the floor onto my back," he said. "The officer went around my left side and proceeded to kick me three times in my chest. Once that happened, they put me back on my stomach to be cuffed. Then once I was cuffed, I was spun back on my back. And that's when the officer walked over to me and punched me three times in the left eye."

Sarah: "Without provocation?"
Arroyo: "Without."
Sarah: "Just cold cocked you?"
Arroyo: "Just cold cocked me."
Sarah: "Not struggling?"
Arroyo: "I did not fight back."

Arroyo says he asked the officers to get his glasses on the ground.

"That's when he crushed them with his right foot," he said.

Arroyo would later be charged at the 52nd Precinct with graffiti vandalism and resisting arrest, specifically that he "tried to cover his arms with his body to prevent from being handcuffed."

He says that never happened. But later, he says, he did try to get the badge number of one of the two officers who allegedly assaulted him.

"He said, 'If you look at my badge number again, I am going to imprint it in your forehead,'" Arroyo said. "That's when I looked at it again. That's when the officer picked up his shield. He smashed the badge into the left side of my forehead and left it there five to 10 seconds and then he said to me, 'Go look in the mirror if you want my badge number."

When Arroyo's mother arrived at the precinct, she says she wasn't allowed to see Steven because he's 18 and an adult. But not to worry, that he'd fallen while being apprehended.

"They told me there was scratches," Cythia Arroyo said. "And I rushed to the hospital, and when I saw him, I could not believe what I saw."

Arroyo would eventually need an implant for his fractured orbital bone. He told hospital staff he had been punched by an officer. He was then visited by investigators from police internal affairs. We spoke with his lawyer, George Wachtel.

Sarah: "What about the argument he may have fallen?"
Wachtel: "He would've had to have scrapes...He would've had to have scrapes on his nose. The rest of him would've had to have some sort of injury. This kid was hit. Hit deliberately. This is almost, this strike is almost surgical precision."

Arroyo's lawyers are now suing the city for violating the teen's civil rights.

Sarah: "You know they're saying you resisted arrest."
Arroyo: "Yes, I know. But at no time, I resisted."

Arroyo may have permanent eye damage.

"I have double vision," he said. "My eye won't blink correctly...I thought that this only happens in movies, to be honest. I didn't really think that New York City police were really like this. I have heard stories, but that's just stories. You don't know until it really happens to you."

An NYPD spokesman says Internal Affairs is investigating. But at this point, the status of the two officers is unchanged.

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