NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A man prosecutors say was put in an illegal chokehold by NYPD officers is now behind bars in a different incident, but his family says it’s all because the system failed him.
Ricky Bellevue was introduced through viral videos showing NYPD officers piling on top of him on June 21.
One officer is facing charges after being accused of using an illegal chokehold during the arrest, causing Bellevue to lose consciousness.
Officers knew Bellevue had a mental illness that his family said, after this, got much worse.
“The most he sleeps is five minutes. He wakes up out of his sleep talking about they’re trying to kill him, they’re trying to choke him to death,” said Judith Ceno, Bellevue’s sister-in-law.
Ceno took him to Lincoln Hospital. She says she pleaded with doctors, fearing he posed a risk to himself and others.
“I even had to be demanding and tell them I’m going to bring his lawyer in here to demand y’all to let him stay here because he cannot be out in the street,” Ceno said.
Still, days later the 35-year-old was released. Since then, Bellevue has been arrested twice for robbery, including allegedly stealing from a 14-year-old girl.
Bellevue is hardly alone. The NYPD responds to more than 175,000 calls for emotionally disturbed people each year.
Like for Rashid Brimmage, who had at least 100 prior arrests before police say he violently shoved a 92-year-old woman to the ground in June.
Attorney Sanford Rubenstein represents Bellevue in his civil case.
“Society needs to have the proper treatment of those with mental illness so that when they return to society, they are not a threat,” Rubenstein told CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas.
For some, going to jail provides the best chance of having access to clinicians and therapeutic units, which means an innocent bystander may first have to become a victim.
“We’ve been trying to get him help,” Ceno said. “We’ve been trying to put him in programs, but if it’s not mandated, they’re not willing to take him.”
Programs for Bellevue worked in the past, giving his family hope.
“My biggest fear is that I get a call saying that somebody killed him because he don’t have the help that he needs,” Ceno said.
A fear that’s intensified since his family says they first noticed Bellevue’s decline after his father died nearly 10 years ago.
Bellevue is now back at Rikers Island. Because of patient confidentially, Health and Hospitals could not comment on why he was released.
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