A top Suffolk police official said Wednesday a preliminary investigation found that an officer had followed standard procedure when he used a stun gun to subdue a 21-year-old Copiague man during a videotaped altercation with police.
The video, which lasts only for a few seconds, shows the suspect face down near the intersection of Amerigo Vespucci Avenue and Dixon Avenue in Copiague with officers trying to hold him Tuesday night. One of them places the device on the back of his thigh, delivering several jolts.
"Based on that little snippet, it is within a proper use of force," said First Precinct Commanding Officer Insp. Gerard Gigante, referring to the cellphone video shot by a witness. "It's within the guidelines, and even the location where they Tase him is within guideline."
Gigante cautioned that the incident is still under investigation and that police hope witnesses come forward.
He said the Taser was used after several officers were unable to control the man and that department guidelines allow the use of a stun gun when a suspect is resisting arrest and either assaulting an officer or escalating the situation.
The suspect, Jeu Gonzalez, 21, of Pio XI St., said, "I never lifted a hand" to threaten the officers, though he admitted he yelled obscenities when they began trying to handcuff him.
Gonzalez Wednesday pleaded not guilty to resisting arrest, second-degree harassment and disorderly conduct charges in First District Court in Central Islip. He posted $1,000 bail after being arraigned before Judge Stephen Ukeiley.
The skirmish occurred when police happened on the scene about 6:24 p.m. and began asking questions about what they thought appeared to be a brewing altercation outside a deli. The woman who took the video, but declined to give her name, said she contacted Gonzalez, a friend, for help after locking her keys in her car at Amerigo Vespucci Avenue and Dixon Avenue.
Police officers, Gigante said, had been on high alert because of a stabbing at an Oak Street bar near the site of the scuffle.
"They hear some yelling and they see the guy throwing the finger," Gigante said, referring to Gonzalez.
But Gonzalez, who was on a break from work at the Copiague MetroPC store at the time, said he had made the obscene gesture jokingly to a friend nearby.
Gigante said the officers got out of their patrol car to talk to Gonzalez and asked for his identification.
"He takes the identification out of his pocket and flings it at a female officer," Gigante said. Gigante said Gonzalez cursed at the officer and made "a movement" toward her.
Gonzalez said the police officer made obscene remarks to him, and he replied with obscenities.
"The male officer, it's his split-second feeling that [Gonzalez] is going to lunge on her back based on the comment and the way he's moving toward her," Gigante said. The officer "puts out his arm to pull Mr. Gonzalez back."
Gigante said the male officer and Gonzalez began wrestling and hit the ground.
Police said Gonzalez was not injured during the arrest but he was taken to a hospital, also a standard procedure, because officers used a stun gun on him. After being released, Gonzalez displayed bruises on his arms and his back. He also had a scrape on his right eyebrow.
A spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Tom Spota said Gonzalez has outstanding charges of criminal possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor, and aggravated unlicensed driving, also a misdemeanor.
With John Valenti
Stun gun policy
According to the Suffolk County Police Department, Tasers are not to be used unless an officer reasonably believes it is required for an arrest,self-defense or the defense of a third party.
Tasers cannot be used if a person is:
Find a link to Suffolk County Police Department's complete stun gun policy at newsday.com/li