NYPD Agrees to Pay $125,000 to Bronx Woman Who Sued to Stop Police Violence and Retaliation Against Black and Brown New Yorkers 

Media Contacts:

Michael Paul Jackson, mjackson@bronxdefenders.org  

The Bronx, NY – Today, The Bronx Defenders and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, LLP announced that the City of New York has agreed to pay Cheyenne Lee $125,000 after nine NYPD officers barged into her home without a warrant, arrested her teenage nephew, and then arrested her without basis when she begged them not to hurt her nephew. 

While wrongfully jailed, Ms. Lee’s blood pressure skyrocketed. She was brought to a hospital and shackled to a bed. After her release, she faced months of prosecution before her charges were dismissed. Ms. Lee sued not just to seek justice in her case, but to bring greater accountability to police aggression, violence, and misconduct that is directed most often against Black and Brown New Yorkers. Read the complaint here and read the settlement here.

“The NYPD had no right to barge into my house, illegally arrest me, and terrorize my family,” said Ms. Lee. “We all have the same human rights to be safe and secure in our homes, but police trampled those rights when they broke into my home without a warrant and fabricated reports to justify their abuse and violence against me and my family. The epidemic of police violence, and the harm it causes to families like mine, must end. My hope is that what happened to me, and my victory, can help every Black and brown New Yorker who has been hurt, abused, or racially discriminated against by law enforcement.” 

The NYPD officers said they were responding to a neighbor’s call about an alleged dispute in the home, but when officers arrived, her relative told police he was fine and did not want the police involved. Nevertheless, they forced their way into Ms. Lee’s home without a warrant, tackled Ms. Lee’s nephew, and arrested him. 

As a woman of Black and Native American ancestry, Ms. Lee knew what could happen to her young nephew when faced with police in these moments and pleaded with the officers not to harm her relative. Instead, the police arrested her too. In their report, the officers fabricated the reason for Ms. Lee’s arrest, claiming that she had lied about her nephew’s whereabouts, when the officers’ own body cameras showed she had done no such thing. Ms. Lee’s arrest was retaliation for exercising her right to speak up about their abuse and question their illegal conduct. 

“New Yorkers deserve to live safe and free from violence and abuse, but the NYPD’s actions, along with its disinformation tactics about Ms. Lee’s arrest, show how little they value the rights of Black and brown people,” said Anne Venhuizen, Attorney in the Impact Litigation Practice at The Bronx Defenders. “Police violence does not keep people safe. Instead, it destroys communities, hurts families, causes intergenerational trauma, and costs New York City millions each year.” 

The NYPD’s treatment of Ms. Lee is part of a demonstrated pattern of police violence and abuse that violates the rights and freedoms of New Yorkers. Indeed, the agency agreed last year to an overhaul of how it handles street demonstrations, following its violent response to city-wide protests following George Floyd’s murder. And in 2022 alone, New York City paid $121 million to victims of police misconduct. 

The Bronx Defenders represented Ms. Lee with pro bono counsel Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, LLP. 

“We are proud to have helped Ms. Lee hold the City accountable for the trauma and indignity they caused to her,” said Lina Bensman, Partner at Cleary Gottlieb. “The NYPD is not above the law.”