On the day a grand jury handed down indictments in the police shooting of Sean Bell, a Bronx clergyman accused police of beating him after he was pulled over on a highway. NY1’s Michael Meenan filed the following report.
Bronx minister Reverend Indalecio Del Valle claims he was beaten by police after being taken into custody by mistake.
“I saw about ten police officers who drew their guns at me; they come to my car, where I was at my car; one of the police officers opened the door and grabbed my hand; and pulled me out of the car and threw me on the floor,” said Reverend Del Valle.
The reverend Del Valle says it happened Thursday night on the Cross Bronx Expressway as he was on his way to his church where he conducts services. Joined by his family and supporters, De Valle says he kept asking why he was pulled over.
“I was telling him, ‘I am a minister,’ he told me to shut up and on the floor he started hitting the right side of my face, and other officers started kicking me in my legs and my back,” said Del Valle. “The officer who was hitting me with his fists on my face told me I shouldn’t run over a cop. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Del Valle says he was then hauled into the 43rd Precinct where he was finally able to convince a cop he was not the person they were looking for.
“Then he called somebody, a police officer in a white shirt, who told a guy to take off the handcuffs, they took me to a little room and he apologized to me,” said Del Valle.
Del Valle did not say how long he was held in police custody before he was taken to the hospital where he was treated for bruises on his head and body. He was released Friday morning, facing no charges.
In a written statement police department spokesman Paul Browne admits officers made a mistake:
“The individual was mistakenly taken into custody and released after a short time. His claim that he was punched by a police officer is under investigation.”
But the incident has outraged local elected officials and Hispanic clergymen.
“Those police officers who hit this guy they need to be brought to justice,” said State Senate member Ruben Diaz Sr.
The timing of the incident was an unfortunate coincidence for the NYPD, with three detectives facing criminal charges in connection with the fatal shooting of a Queens man last November.
“It is baffling; it is every word you could think of that on this eve of the decision from the grand jury of Sean Bell that we have to be here and we have to make a complaint about what happened to Rev. Del Valle,” said Bronx Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr.
Whether or not the police apologized to Rev. Del Valle, his attorney said they are going to sue the city for violating his civil rights.
– Michael Meenan