Black law enforcement organizations rallied outside the Garden City Police Department Wednesday in support of a retired Nassau County correction officer who says he was beaten by two cops after they mistook him for a shoplifter last month.
Ronald Lanier, 53, said he was shopping at the Western Beef supermarket in Mineola on Nov. 30 when two police officers came up behind him and ordered him to put his hands behind his back.
The officers allegedly mocked Lanier, who is African-American, and beat him while he was held on the ground and handcuffed. Lanier said he told the officers “I am on the job,” a phrase law enforcement officers use to identify themselves to each other.
The officers, who have not been identified by police, stopped only after Lanier urged other shoppers to record the incident on their cellphones, he said.
“This has to stop,” Lanier said, his voice breaking. “I didn’t ask for this. This came to me.”
About 30 people stood behind Lanier, including one person holding a sign that called for the firing of the officers, during a news conference outside the police station. Representatives from the Nassau Corrections Association, the Long Island chapter of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, the Nassau Sheriff Guardians and the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, among others, attended.
“We should not have to watch our backs because we are black,” said Darrin Green, president of the Long Island chapter of Blacks in Law Enforcement in America. “We want to see those officers terminated for their actions.”
Lanier, who served in the U.S. Army and volunteered at Ground Zero after 9/11, ticked off the names of African-Americans who have been killed by police.
“I’m speaking on the behalf of people that could not speak,” he said.
Lanier plans to sue the police department and the village. He said he had to drive himself to Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola for treatment of bruises.
He said he never received an apology from the officers or their supervisor. “That’s justice?” he asked. “That’s respect?”
Garden City Police Lt. Joseph Lennon, stationed inside headquarters on Wednesday, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
The shoplifting suspect, Stephen Wilson, 49, of Rosedale, Queens, was later arrested in the supermarket. Authorities say he tried to steal two designer handbags from the Lord & Taylor department store in Garden City.