Zully de La Cruz, one of Gamalier Reyes’ sisters, reveals the details of his encounter with police officers while her mother Ruth de Los Santos stands to the left. — Photos by Diego Cupolo
“We didn’t call you, you called us,” said the police officer at the door in response Indhira Reyes’ confusion.
Her brother, Gamalier Reyes, 26, who is bipolar and schizophrenic, was unusually disturbed after coming home from the airport early Saturday morning so she had contacted his social worker to send an ambulance. To her surprise, Indhira opened the door to eight police officers from Bushwick’s 83rd Precinct, some of them wearing plastic gloves, who said they had come to take Gamalier to the hospital.
What happened next is highly disputed.
In a press conference organized by Make The Road NY on Tuesday morning, the Reyes family tearfully claimed Gamalier was beaten by six officers who entered their home while two other policemen kept them in a neighbor’s apartment. About 50 demonstrators held large pictures of Gamalier’s swollen, purple face as family members recounted the night’s events in front of the 83rd Precinct on Knickerbocker Avenue.
“He was upset, but he wasn’t violent and we were forced out of the apartment after one of the cops hit him with a baton,” said Zully de La Cruz, one of Gamalier’s sisters. “All we could do was listen to him yelling and screaming for the officers to stop hitting him.”
Gamalier is currently at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center awaiting facial reconstructive surgery for a skull fracture and multiple bones in his face. No criminal charges were filed against Gamalier and the Reyes family announced they will sue the officers involved in the beating.
“He should have been assisted, not assaulted,” De La Cruz added.
While NYPD representatives did not speak during the press conference, Paul J. Browne, a Police Department spokesman, released a statement Monday night saying Gamalier was aggressive with the officers and attacked them when they tired to restrain him.
The New York Times reported the NYPD was called by the social worker. When officers arrived, Gamalier told them, “You’re going to have to kill me. I’m not going.” In response, officers tried to subdue Gamalier, but he punched one in the face and injured a second officer in the leg, sending one to the hospital – a claim the Reyes family said was a lie.
The incident happened around 2 a.m. Saturday morning, not long after Gamalier returned early from a trip to the Dominican Republic, where his family said he was involved in a minor scuffle. His mother, Ruth de Los Santos, said he was extremely agitated upon his arrival and had not taken his medication that night.
Citing this incident, along with the recent death of Bed-Stuy resident Iman Morales, Mary Dougherty, a community organizer for Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities, said New York City needs to follow mental health initiatives similar to those in Chicago and Memphis where special Crisis Intervention Teams have been created to deal with individuals suffering from mental illness.
“We have been seeing an increasing number of people with mental disabilities being mishandled by city authorities and it doesn’t seem like the NYPD and New York City want to address these issues seriously,” Dougherty said.
According to the RIPPD, the number of inmates with a mental illness in U.S. penitentiaries has quadrupled over the last six years.