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After Months-Long Manhunt, NYPD Arrests Harlem Man Who Allegedly Got Cops Wet

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A 21-year-old Harlem resident is currently behind bars on Rikers Island for the alleged offense of throwing water at NYPD officers this summer.

According to the NYPD, Darnell Hilliard was one of several men seen dousing a group of officers as they were making an arrest on St. Nicholas Avenue this past July. Viral video of the incident—and a similar confrontation in Brownsville—prompted outrage from police unions and elected officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Nearly four months after the incident, Hilliard was identified and arrested at his Harlem home on Monday, police said. He was hit with a lengthy list of charges, including riot, assault, disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration, and harassment.

While prosecutors with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office dropped the riot charge and lowered assault to attempted assault, they still asked for $2,500 bail, which Hilliard could not pay. He’s currently on Rikers awaiting his next court date on Friday. A spokesperson for the Manhattan D.A. did not respond to Gothamist’s inquiries about why bail was sought.

At a press conference on Wednesday in which he bemoaned the state’s recent bail reform law as going too far, Mayor de Blasio was asked whether he felt the 21-year-old deserved to be incarcerated for throwing water.

“No should ever assault a police officer. No one should throw anything at a police officer. No one should insult a police officer. It’s just not acceptable,” the mayor said. “Now, there is freedom of speech. But I still would say to anyone saying hateful language to police officers that, to me, that’s morally unacceptable. There’s no reason for it. Don’t be hateful to the people who are protecting us.”

Two others were previously arrested for the Harlem confrontation. In the wake of the initial controversy, several police accountability activists noted that condemnation of the water-throwing had evolved into demands for communities to show total deference to officers.

“When elected officials insist that people in communities of color who’ve been punched, unconstitutionally stopped, surveilled, harassed and falsely arrested for decades, simply ‘respect’ the police, they show how deeply out of touch they are with the significant segments of this city who frankly have plenty of reasons to hate the police,” Josmar Trujillo, an organizer based in Spanish Harlem, wrote in an op-ed for Gothamist at the time.

Public defenders also worried that the NYPD would use the reaction to the incident as an excuse to hit the alleged throwers with excessive charges. “Splashing water is not equivalent to obstructing any kind of governmental action at that point,” Anne Oredeko, the supervising attorney for the Legal Aid Society’s racial justice unit, said in response to an NYPD memo instructing police officers not to tolerate any sort of water hijinks.

The mayor reiterated this zero-tolerance policy during Wednesday’s press conference. “The bottom line,” he said, “is that if anyone assaults a police officer or does anything illegal to a police officer, you see consistently that people are being arrested for those offenses.”

The NYPD is currently seeking ten more suspects for their role in the July 22nd water-throwing incident.

With Yasmeen Khan





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