An NYPD cop was suspended without pay after he was caught on video pummeling a 14-year-old girl while trying to break up an after-school brawl on Staten Island, police said Wednesday.
“It happened so quick, I couldn’t even think straight,” the teen, Kyonna Robinson, told the Daily News. “I just thought they were going to break up the fight and take us to the precinct.”
The department’s Internal Affairs Bureau is looking into the incident after video surfaced on social media of an officer, identified by sources as Nicholas Scalzo, repeatedly punching the child’s head as other teens try to pull the girl away from the cops.
The assault took place as police responded to a fight among youths at a bus stop on Willowbrook Road and Forest Ave. near the Edwin Markham Middle School in Port Richmond around 2:40 p.m. Tuesday, cops said.
Kyonna spotted her 12-year-old sister fighting with another girl and jumped in to protect her.
“The cops came and they were supposed to be breaking it up, but obviously me and a cop got into a fight,” Kyonna said Wednesday. “Basically they broke it up and they were putting everyone in handcuffs.”
When Kyonna saw her sister being cuffed, she approached Scalzo. The sibling was being arrested for assault, according to a police source.
“I asked the cop ‘What are you guys doing?’” Kyonna recalled. “And he pushed me and I hit him two times.”
The girl was obstructing the arrest by reaching for the officer’s handcuffs and punching him, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Julian Phillips said in a statement.
Video posted online shows a girl with long red braids, identified as Kyonna, being repeatedly struck by Scalzo. He punches the girl about nine times as she backs away from him and other teens try to pull her away. She threw a few punches of her own before flailing her arms in an attempt to break away from the cops, the video shows.
“He’s hitting her? What the f---!” one girl off camera screams.
“Don’t do that!” another teen is heard shouting.
A friend of Kyonna’s watched helplessly as the girl was hit over and over again by Scalzo.
“He was hitting her repeatedly in the head,” said Christy Lou, 13. “I tried to grab her and pull her under me. He ended up hitting me.”
The cops were at a fixed school dismissal post nearby when they were called to the bus stop, which is about a block away from school grounds.
“[The cop] struck back to gain compliance,” the police source said.
Kyonna was arrested and charged with assault. Cops wrote up a juvenile report on the 12-year-old girl.
Police brought Kyonna to the hospital, though her mother, Taneesha Robinson, was not aware of that until hours later, she said.
“I was informed that my child had been taken to the doctor’s and that kind of caught me a little bit off guard,” said Robinson, 39. “I wasn’t sure why she had to go to the doctor.”
When her girls were released from police custody and they arrived back home, Robinson saw the video.
“I had no idea about it,” the mother said. “I was hurt. It’s upsetting when a female was hit by a male but this is a juvenile by a police officer, so it just brings it to another notch.”
Robinson mentioned that Kyonna has asthma, which can be triggered at any time.
“I thought that was the reason why she went to the hospital,” Robinson said. “I didn’t know that it was because they just wanted to cover themselves and make sure that they didn’t see any injuries from the police officer.”
Kyonna said she had a “knot” on her head after the beating and now feels like she has a migraine.
Mayor Adams commended Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell for quickly suspending Scalzo.
“I was not pleased with what I saw on the video,” he said at an unrelated press conference in Brooklyn.
Adams went on to praise the NYPD and insisted that the caught-on-video incident should not give New Yorkers the impression that they can’t trust the police.
“You could be the staunchest critic of a police officer, but you know three numbers in this city, 911,” he said. “You are happy when they pull up, you are happy to see them late at night, you’re happy if your child is out somewhere knowing that they are on the street.”
Scalzo has been assigned to Staten Island’s 121st Precinct since 2013, according to NYPD records. He was appointed as a police officer in 2008.
“The officer, assigned to the 121st Precinct, utilized physical force against this female by striking her with his hand several times,” said Phillips. “The force used by the officer, a 14-year veteran of the Department, is currently under investigation by the Internal Affairs Bureau.”
Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch was outraged that the cop was suspended before IAB could launch an investigation.
“The police officers involved are entitled to due process, not summary judgment based on a few seconds of video,” Lynch said.
Kyonna was left crestfallen.
“I’m just disappointed,” she said. “That precinct and the NYPD and that man.”