Jewish leaders gathered with local elected officials on Monday to denounce the New York City Police Department after officers were caught on surveillance video beating a man inside a Brooklyn synagogue outreach center.
Investigators say the police officers found Ehud Halevy, 21, asleep at the Alternative Learning Institute for Young Adults in Crown Heights back on October 8.
According to synagogue leader Rabbi Moshe Feiglin, Halevy is a synagogue member and did have permission to sleep there, but the criminal complaint says police were answering a call to remove Halevy because he was sleeping naked in the woman's section of the center.
A department spokesman says that when the officers tried to make him leave, Halevy refused and threatened them, swinging his fists and arms.
As seen on the surveillance video, Police Officer Luis Vega punched Halevy several times until he and his partner were able to get the shirtless man in handcuffs.
According to the Brooklyn district attorney, Halevy faces several charges, including second- and third-degree assault, criminal trespass, resisting arrest and marijuana possession.
Crown Heights leaders said the video does not show the Halevy fighting back.
"If I was being hit by a police officer I would hit back. If I was innocent, if I didn't do anything wrong and someone is belting the daylights out of me? What am I going to do, just belt me, just punch me, I'm a punching bag? He didn't do any of that. He didn't defend himself," said State Assemblyman Dov Hikind.
"The fact is that a police officer should not assume the position of holding up your dukes, like as if you want to engage in a fight. That is not about trying to apprehend a suspect," said City Councilwoman Letitia James.
"It is unacceptable, it is a disgrace. And the police should stand together with us against these types of acts," said Zaki Tamir of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council.
Staffers at the center say the 21-year-old appears to be OK physically, but they say mentally he is traumatized.
The synagogue allows at-risk youth to stay at the center and Halevy has been there for nearly a month.
"Had we not had this video, this kid is looking at nine charges and jail time based on a fabrication, based on a lie," said Barry Sugar, a Crown Heights community leader.
"How many others times in the City of New York, if you don't have a video, you are done. You don't have a chance. It is the police officer against the civilian, civilian loses," said Hikind. "So this is really a wake up call for me, I got to tell you."
"This is not a fight of who is the strongest. It is using your skills and training and tactics to talk someone down," said Brooklyn Senator Eric Adams.
The person who called 911 did not want to speak about the incident Monday.
The NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau and the Brooklyn district attorney are investigating the incident.