The man subdued by Freeport police in a controversial arrest captured on video this week said in an interview that he did not resist police and feared for his life as officers punched him and used a stun gun.
“I thought I was going to die,” Akbar Rogers, 44, of Freeport, said in an interview from his home Thursday night. “My mind just went black.”
Rogers, who spoke to Newsday after posting $6,000 bail on multiple charges related to Tuesday's events, said several officers held his arms and pressed their knees into his back as he lay on the ground.
“I kept saying, ‘I’m not resisting,’ ” Rogers said, adding that he was struck in the eyes and felt a jolt through his body from two stun gun shots. “I saw black stars and white light when they shocked me, and my heart almost stopped. I said, ‘I can’t breathe,’ and I said, ‘You’re killing me.’ ”
Warning: Graphic language
At least seven Freeport police officers were involved in the arrest, according to cellphone video posted to Instagram by one of Rogers' neighbors. The video captured a minute of the altercation, including officers hitting and kicking Rogers.
Police said Rogers resisted arrest and was reaching for his waistband. A spokesman for the Nassau County district attorney's office said no gun was recovered.
Officers had come to arrest Rogers on a warrant for a traffic charge, as well as a separate incident in which he allegedly pushed a woman to the ground twice, officials have said. An attorney representing the officers said they were doing their job.
“The individual ignored repeated commands to stop resisting," said attorney William Petrillo, of Garden City.
Petrillo added that the officers "have the support within their job and from many people in the community.”
Rogers said he ran into a neighbor’s yard when a truck pulled up to him at a fast speed at his East Seaman Avenue home Tuesday afternoon.
"I saw the truck was pulling in my driveway trying to run into me,"he said. "I started running and I ran to the back of the house. I ran right across the street to my neighbor's house. I'm fleeing now."
Rogers said he got stuck by a fence and police caught him. The video shows officers pulling him back over a chain-link fence and to the ground.
"They grab me, slammed me over onto the ground and they started beating me up," Rogers said. "Boom, boom, boom, boom."
Then, Rogers said, the officers started kicking him. At least two officers were seen on the video hitting him.
"Now they're kicking me and punching me in the face," he said. "I felt the Taser. ... I feel my heart, like, skip. I'm praying for my life. Help! Help! Help! Stop! I'm submitting. And they keep beating me."
Asked about the use of punches, kicks and a Taser, Petrillo said, “Any and all force in this case was reasonable and necessary to subdue him.”
Rogers said family members told him they had video of the incident. "That was just pure abuse of excessive force," he said. "This is unjust. This a traumatizing situation for me and my family at this moment, because I never thought that I would be the one to be the victims in this situation."
Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said Thursday her office was “reviewing the incident.”
The footage has sparked outrage from community residents, activists and on social media, including racial concerns because the officers appeared to be white and Rogers is black.
In response, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran; Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy, whose son is one of the arresting officers; Nassau Legislature Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), Legis. Debra Mulé (D-Freeport) and Freeport Village Trustee Carmen Piñeyro called for an investigation.
The officers were still on the job Friday, a village spokesman said. Shawn Randall, president of the Freeport Police Benevolent Association, expressed his support for the officers.
"I am confident that when the judicial process is complete and all facts are presented, it will be confirmed that our officers did their jobs in accordance with the law,” Randall said.
Freeport Village Attorney Howard Colton said police went to arrest Rogers because he was “wanted for an outstanding warrant for aggravated unlicensed operation and was sought in connection with a physical harassment and numerous violations of the vehicle and traffic law.”
Rogers said he was taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow after his arrest for treatment of swelling and abrasions on his face and body. His left arm was in a sling Thursday night and in court Friday.
Court documents show the incident with police came seven weeks after a woman who lives at Rogers' home said he pushed her to the ground after she left him "in Suffolk County with no ride." She told police she was six weeks pregnant at the time.
On Nov. 3, police spotted Rogers in a Mercedes-Benz and chased him, an incident in which they said he reached speeds of 100 mph, according to Colton. The chase was aborted for safety reasons, Colton said.