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October 28, 2020, 1:05 PM

NYPD Officer Who Kneeled On Man's Neck During Social Distancing Arrest Resigns Before Department Trial Can Begin


The NYPD officer who kneeled on a man's neck during a social distancing arrest earlier this year has quit the force, days before he was set to face a departmental trial.

Francisco Garcia, a veteran NYPD officer with a lengthy history of misconduct complaints, announced his resignation on Wednesday, according to his union, the Police Benevolent Association.

Garcia was caught on video punching and tackling Donni Wright, a 33-year-old groundskeeper with NYCHA, during a May 2nd social distancing stop in the East Village. The plainclothes officer proceeded to whip out a taser, before pinning Wright down, kneeling on his neck, and calling him the n-word.

A spokesperson for the NYPD, Sergeant Mary Frances O’Donnell, initially defended Garcia's actions, claiming that Wright "took a fighting stance against the officer."

But video of the confrontation elicited widespread condemnation, and underscored the stark racial disparities in social distancing arrests at the start of the pandemic in NYC. The NYPD was subsequently instructed to reevaluate it enforcement procedures.

The NYPD suspended Garcia, and the department's Internal Affairs Bureau later recommended he face discipline. He was scheduled to face a department trial this Thursday, according to the Daily News, which first reported the resignation.

Garcia, who joined the force in 2012, took home more than $100,000 in total pay in 2018, the last year the data is available. He will still be eligible to receive his pension.

"The fact that this police officer resigned is important, but what's really important here is that he be criminally prosecuted, convicted and sent to jail for what he did," attorney Sanford Rubenstein, who's representing Wright in a civil lawsuit, told Gothamist.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office has opened an investigation and interviewed Wright about the incident, but has not filed charges, nearly six months later. A spokesperson for the office declined to comment on the investigation.

In a statement, PBA President Pat Lynch said that Garcia was left "holding the bag" for the failures of City Hall and NYPD leadership.

"We warned them that sending cops out to enforce their half-baked public health policies would create a backlash — they didn’t listen, and now a yet another police officer’s career has been cut short by politics," he said. "Is it any wonder that thousands of cops are heading out the door before the same thing happens to them?”

Prior to the East Village incident, Garcia had been the subject of at least seven misconduct lawsuits in the past five years, costing city taxpayers nearly $200,000.