A 29-year-old man with bipolar disorder was tased multiple times by NYPD officers at his home Sunday in Queens, New York, and later died from cardiac arrest.
Police said they responded to a 911 call of a man with a gun inside a house at around 9:30 p.m., and when officers arrived at the house in Whitestone, they saw the man, George Zapantis, in his basement. The NYPD said he approached officers with a Samurai sword in hand while "refusing to comply with the officers' directives."
Police then tased him, and he "suffered a cardiac event." Zapantis was transported to NewYork-Presbyterian Queens Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
In videos taken by an upstairs neighbor, at least six officers surround Zapantis, who appears unarmed, in a narrow outdoor area of his house and yell at him to get down on the ground.
"You're going to get tasered again if you don't get down," one officer says.
"Hit him again!" another officer shouts, before they tase him. (Warning: The video below is graphic.)
Courtesy George Vomvolakis
George Vomvolakis, an attorney representing Zapantis's family, said police should have known that they were responding at the residence of someone with mental health issues because they had been called there other times for "arguments with neighbors" and other situations.
"They should have sent ESU, or doctors, or social workers, another team," he told BuzzFeed News. Instead, they had regular police officers respond to the scene.
The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
That night, Zapantis was arguing with a neighbor about an outdoor light that evening, Vomvolakis said. The family believes another neighbor walking their dog saw the argument and called 911, thinking Zapantis had a gun.
"By the time the police arrived, the argument was over. Everybody had gone to their respective homes," Vomvolakis said.
Ricky Noble, the upstairs neighbor, told the New York Daily News that he was shouting at the officers during the arrest that Zapantis had mental health issues and takes medication.
"I was yelling at the officers that he was [bipolar], and they were still tasing him," Noble said.
The NYPD has come under intense criticism for its liberal deploying of Tasers, especially on people of color and those experiencing mental health crises, as an analysis from the Civilian Complaint Review Board found last year. New York Magazine reported that from 2016 to 2019, NYPD officers killed at least 14 people experiencing mental health issues.
Zapantis lived in the house with his mom and his sister, who Vomvolakis said "is severely disabled." Zapantis took care of his sister.
His mom, Athanasia Zapantis, is not doing well, her attorney said.
"She lost her son," Vomvolakis said. "Their father passed away years ago, so it's just the three of them. ... They were a small little family."
The family has a lot of questions about what happened, and Vomvolakis has asked the police department — which he said has been "not very" cooperative — to release body camera footage to the family.
"Most of these questions would be answered when we view the bodycam videos," he said. "Right now we're looking for complete transparency."