A 29-year-old Greek-American was killed by police in New York’s borough of Queens, after a neighbour misreported that he was carrying a gun inside his own home.
George Zapantis, who suffered from bipolar, was in his basement dressed as a gladiator and was carrying a samurai sword when police arrived at his house on 150th St just before 9:30pm.
When police entered the house, they ordered Zapantis to drop the sword, but when he refused to, they tasered him. As they attempted to handcuff him outside of the house, police tasered him again.
It is suspected he died of cardiac arrest in an ambulance and was pronounced dead at New York-Presbyterian Queens hospital.
Upstairs neighbours Ricky Noble, 42, and his 16-year-old daughter Shakira, described Zapantis as a church-going man who took care of his 33-year-old sister with down syndrome.
The two witnesses said Zapantis was threatening no one with the sword when the neighbour called the police on him, with things escalating quickly once cops arrived. The video indicates the suspect was unarmed when finally arrested.
“There were moments where George did say that he couldn’t breath to (police), when they were pulling on his shirt,” said Shakira. “And the officers said ‘Don’t play that card, no one’s choking you.‘”
Athanasia Zapantis said the family was waiting for the results of an independent autopsy on her son’s cause of death, and expressed her frustration that police didn’t call in a social worker to defuse the situation.
“If my son was wrong…” she said. “I don’t think he was wrong at all. He had so good a heart. He was kind to everybody.”
A video taken by a neighbour show cops tasering Zapantis as they struggled with him outside the door to his apartment, with one officer shouting “Get down! You’re going to get tasered again if you don’t get down!”
A second cop is heard saying “Hit him again!” before Zapantis was tasered once more.
Ricky Noble, a neighbour of Zapantis, blamed another neighbour entirely for the incident and described the deceased as a good person who often brought them Greek food, caused no trouble and looked after his down syndrome sister.
“My wife loved it,” said Noble when reflecting on the Greek food Zapantis would bring him and his wife. “He’s good. He’s a good human being. He was a good person.”
“I told the officers he’s got mental health (issues), he takes medicine,” recalled Ricky Noble. “I was yelling at the officers that he was (mentally ill), and they were still tasing him. Just handcuff him and walk him out.”
Athansia Zapantis said she will move out of the neighbourhood knowing that one of her neighbours is responsible for causing an incident that led to her sons death. The neighbour was seen clapping as George was being tasered and handcuffed.
“If I see him, I’m going to spit in his face,” said Athanasia.
“He was supposed to go to work tomorrow,” she said. “I have to call them and tell them, you know, he’s not going back.”
“I’m crying because I was not here for my son in his last moments, and he died in such a horrible way,” his mother added. “He was my left hand, my son. He was everything… He died for no reason.”
The NYPD’s Force Investigation Division has launched a probe but said based on a preliminary investigation, the use of force appears to be within department guidelines, according to Daily News.