A New York Police Department officer is still roaming the streets after his own body camera captured him apparently planting drugs on innocent people twice.
The Intercept acquired bodycam footage reportedly showing Officer Kyle Erickson planting weed in a car during a traffic stop on March 13, 2018.
In the video, Erickson and his partner Elmer Pastran, pulled over a Staten Island driver who supposedly had a broken taillight. Jason Serrano was sitting in the passenger seat during the stop. Serrano, who was recovering from a stab wound, and his female friend were ordered out of the car after the cops claimed they smelled weed.
“I can barely move,” Serrano said while lifting his shirt to show the wound on his abdomen.
“I don’t want to see that,” Erickson replied. When the officers demanded to search Serrano’s jacket he kept protesting — “There’s nothing in there. … I’m not getting searched for no reason” — and was eventually thrown to the ground despite the severity of his injuries.
“They said I was resisting arrest, but I just didn’t want to hit the floor, the only thing I was thinking about was [the injury],” Serrano told The Intercept. “I still had staples in me. … I couldn’t even stand up straight.”
Erickson searched the car while Pastran searched Serrano’s jacket, but they didn’t find anything.
“We gotta find something,” Erickson can be heard telling Pastran.
Erickson goes back to the car for another search. His body camera shows him fiddling with a small nugget of weed before he dropped it in a cup holder. The officers exchange a look and asked each other if they were “good,” as if they were confirming Erickson’s plant.
Serrano was charged with obstruction of government administration, unlawful possession of marijuana, and criminal possession of a controlled substance. Oddly, his friend only received a written citation. He was handcuffed to a hospital bed for five days and later pleaded guilty to resisting arrest to avoid jail time. He didn’t find out about the bodycam footage until years after his plea.
“There’s nothing to say, the video speaks for itself,” Serrano told The Intercept. “I didn’t have no marijuana, I had no weed, I had no drugs, I wasn’t driving, it wasn’t my car, the taillight wasn’t broken.”
A few weeks before Serrano’s ordeal, Erickson’s camera filmed another apparent plant. In February 2018 he and Pastran pulled over a vehicle containing four young Black men, reported The New York Times.
The men ostensibly were stopped because the windows had a dark tint and the driver didn’t use his turn signal. The group admitted they had smoked marijuana but insisted there wasn’t any in the car. The vehicle was searched anyway and the cops didn’t find anything. As he was in Serrano’s case, Erickson seemingly was determined to find something to implicate the group.
“We have to find something,” he said. “You know what I mean?”
Erickson restarted the search, and as he was searching the camera went black. He later attributed the interruption to a “technical difficulty.” When it came back on more than four minutes later, Erickson claimed he found a joint in an area of the car that was previously deemed clear.
“All right, this was in the back seat on the floor,” Erickson said. “It’s a marijuana cigarette, it’s lit, just had to put it out.”
Once again, the officers asked each other if the other was “good” before proceeding with the arrest.
Lasou Kuyateh, the driver of the vehicle, immediately accused Erickson of planting the weed.
“Yo, he’s putting something in my car!” Kuyateh yelled. He was subsequently arrested for possession and continued to accuse the officers of framing him.
“He has a camera, I have a camera. Why would he do that?” Pastran responded. “For him to do that, that would be the dumbest thing ever. He’d lose his job over a dumb arrest like this?”
Unlike Serrano, Kuyateh fought the charges. The drug charge was eventually dropped after the bodycam footage was played during a pretrial hearing. After that video was introduced as evidence the judge asked for an off-the-record conversation with lawyers from both sides. When they were done speaking, the prosecution threw the case out and recommended Erickson hire a lawyer. After conducting an internal investigation, the NYPD determined accusations of misconduct against the officers were “unfounded.”
Pastran and Erickson remained on the force and still patrol Staten Island.