The man subdued by multiple Freeport police officers in a controversial arrest captured in a viral video appeared in court in Mineola on Friday, his head heavily bandaged, with his arm in a sling and a patch over his right eye.
Akbar Rogers, 44, of Freeport had a brief appearance in Nassau District Court on charges of second-degree assault and resisting arrest relating to the Tuesday incident. Rogers, who was represented by the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County, indicated he would obtain private counsel. He is due back in court Dec. 23.
Rogers declined to discuss the specifics of the case as he left the courthouse with his mother, Natilia Bazile, noting his attorney was not present.
Warning: Graphic language
“It’s a high-profile case and I can’t say too much,” Rogers told reporters. “I don’t want to say anything that’s going to hurt me in the future.”
In a statement later Friday, Scott Banks, Legal Aid Society attorney in chief, said: "We believe the police conduct placing our client under arrest for very minor charges, which included the failure to pay a fine, was deeply disturbing, and raises serious issues of misconduct and excessive force."
Rogers called the resisting arrest charge “absurd.” Seven Freeport Police Department officers were involved in his arrest, with two seen on cellphone video punching him. One officer was seen kicking him on the video posted to Instagram.
Police said Rogers was resisting arrest and reaching for his waistband. The Nassau County district attorney's office, which is reviewing the arrest, said Friday that no weapon was found.
Attorney William Petrillo of Garden City is representing the officers. He said Friday that "it is clear from any honest and objective view of the video that reasonable force was necessary to subdue a man clearly resisting.”
He added, “The individual ignored repeated commands to stop resisting. Once properly restrained, no additional force was used.”
Bazile blamed Freeport officers for their tactics, arguing there were other, less violent ways to bring her son into custody.
“I feel terrible for what they did to my son,” Bazile said. “You don’t do anything like that … I don’t know why they acted the way they did. They shouldn’t because he’s not a criminal and was not attacking anybody. All they had to do was handcuff him and take him in, not brutalize him."
Tim Williams, a retired senior detective supervisor for the Los Angeles Police Department, said Friday that after viewing the video, “That’s totally excessive.”
Williams said he did not believe the suspect was resisting the police.
“If you have weight on a person’s back — and they probably have a 1,000 pounds on him — and they’re struggling, they are not struggling to resist you, they’re struggling to breathe,” said Williams, who said he has testified in courts across the country as an expert in police procedure and use of force.
Williams said that the officers' punching, kicking and using a stun gun on Rogers were all an excessive use of force. “There’s no need to punch him; there’s seven people on him,” he said. “He’s not going anywhere.”
Williams said it is standard policy across the country to use the force necessary to make an arrest and prevent an escape.
“He’s not escaping anywhere,” Williams said. “It’s like a pack of dogs on a prey."
Williams, CEO of T.T. Williams Jr. Investigations Inc., also criticized the statement by authorities that Rogers had been reaching for his waistband, implying that he might have had a weapon. “That’s standard talk,” Williams said. “I don’t see him reaching for his waistband. I see them holding his hands.”
But Petrillo noted the officers thought Rogers was reaching for his waistband. “You can hear them express this on the video. They say, ‘Watch the waistband. Watch the waistband,’ ” Petrillo said. He added that these situations are dangerous to police and can “quickly become fatal for the officers.”