Body-Camera Footage Released of Police-Involved Shooting of Kwesi Ashun

Body-Camera Footage Released of Police-Involved Shooting of Kwesi Ashun
Police officers are parked in front of Goldmine Nail Salon in Brownsville after shooting. Nigel Roberts/Bklyner.

BROWNSVILLE — Police body-camera footage was released from an October incident, where a bystander got involved in an arrest of a disorderly man inside of a nail salon and was shot to death by a police officer.

On Friday, October 25, around after 5.40 p.m., a disorderly individual, 26-year-old Dewayne Hawkes, was caught urinating in the middle of Goldmine nail salon at 447 Mother Gaston Boulevard.  Two uniformed police officers from the 73rd Precinct on patrol were stopped by the salon staff and asked to remove Hawkes.

In the video footage released by the NYPD, you can hear Hawkes saying during questioning, “I didn’t want to piss on the street, I would’ve got locked up.”

As the salon workers kept telling the officers what he had done, he continued to say, “Shut up, bitch, you ain’t even American, you ain’t even legal, show me your Green Card.”

The police determined Hawkes had an active warrant and began to place him under arrest, as he began to resist.

A bystander, 33-year-old Kwesi Ashun who was selling T-shirts outside of the salon, got involved in the arrest. The vendor stepped in and engaged in a violent struggle with the officers, one of whom deployed a taser, to no avail.

In response, Ashun struck one of the officers, Officer Lesly Lafontant, 53, with a chair in the head, triggering the officer to discharge his firearm six times at the victim. Ashun was pronounced dead at the location by EMS.

While the footage is disrupted as the body camera of the officer falls off, you can hear the shots and screams of the salon staff. A camera from across the street caught footage of Ashun entering the salon.

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Lafontant was in a medically induced coma at Brookdale Hospital Medical Center on October 28.

Family and friends of Ashun held a vigil on October 28 to remember the victim. The family demanded a full investigation into the shooting, wanting to know if the officers could have de-escalated the situation.

Prior to the shooting, Ashun’s family had sought help for him as he was bipolar. Just three days before the shooting, the family had taken him to Kings County Hospital, where a crisis team told them that there was nothing they could do, his sister Ama Bartley told NY Daily News.

“My brother was not an out-of-control individual,” said Bartley, as she tried to hold back her tears at the vigil that was held for her brother. “People in his life that loved him were not afraid of him because he was peaceful.”

“Our community deserves to know the full truth of what happened. That’s the only way that healing will begin here in Brownsville,” said Camara Jackson, executive director of Elite Learners, Inc., a Brownsville anti-gun violence and youth mentoring organization, at the vigil.

Kwesi Ashun’s sister Ama Bartley, wearing a red coat, sheds tears as she speaks about her brother’s death. Nigel Roberts/Bklyner

The NYPD will continue the investigation into this incident and analyze the video footage in the process. The video was released to review the incident fairly.

The city also said in a statement: “All NYPD patrol officers are equipped with body-worn cameras. The benefits of cameras are clear: transparency into police activity, de-escalation of police encounters and accountability for police officers, through an independent account of interactions between the police and the citizens they serve. Body-worn cameras serve as a vital part of ongoing efforts to increase trust between the police and all New Yorkers.”