It was a tense scene during the height of the George Floyd protests when a crowd of demonstrators surrounded an NYPD SUV while hurling bottles and other objects at cops.
The incident unfolded as one police vehicle was up against a barrier in the middle of the street before a second police SUV then drove into a crowd of protesters.
Aaron Ross, of Sheepshead Bay, is alleging police brutality and says he was struck by one of those vehicles and he is now terrified of cops.
"It was terrifying, I honestly was afraid for my life," Ross said.
After the incident, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the officers were surrounded and had to get away, but he found the incident troubling.
"I didn't like what I saw one bit, I did not want to ever see something like that, I don't ever wanna see it again," de Blasio said.
A law enforcement official at the time said the officer hit the gas after realizing a flaming bag was on top of the vehicle.
Nora Constance Marino is Ross' attorney. She has filed a notice of claim.
"There were other options. What about using a loud speaker? What about calling for backup? I mean there were other options. You don't just barrel your car through a crowd of people," Marino said.
Last week, a report by the Department of Investigation blasted the NYPD for how it responded to those protests.
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The report said the NYPD lacked a clearly defined strategy and that officers used excessive force that contributed to heightened tension.
The report also found the department deployed officers who lacked sufficient training on how to police protests.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said the DOI report on NYPD's response to protesters in the spring "pointed out some things that we can look at internally here."
The report claimed the NYPD failed to coordinate with its own Community Affairs Bureau, which could have talked with protest leaders to tamp down violence.
But Shea said Community Affairs officers were on the front lines the first night of protests at Barclays Center, "getting pelted by fireworks and bottles."
"I think we had close to 500 officers injured, quite severe injuries, we had officers shot at, stabbed, we had officers run over by cars, Molotov cocktails, bashed over the head with things, it was a difficult period all the way around," Shea said.
She said that while he has been supportive and has defended many of the department's actions, he thinks "we have to take a look to improve where we can."
"It was either severe negligence or an intentional act which would've been worse," Marino said. "So giving the police the benefit of the doubt, assuming this was just an act of negligence, this was just an extremely unorganized event, unorganized response."
Ross says he heard no warning from police and he didn't even see the SUV coming.
"We were there to protest against police brutality and then we became victims of police brutality ourselves," Ross said.
An NYPD spokesperson says it will review the lawsuit if and when the department is served.
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