BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — Buffalo Police have now launched an internal affairs investigation after cell phone video surfaced on social media showing off-duty police officer, Richard Hy, hitting and subduing a black man until other police arrive.
The incident happened on Elmwood Avenue in the City of Buffalo near West Utica Street early Thursday afternoon September 3.
Witnesses tell 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly that the restrained man was acting irrationally for hours before the incident as he ran through traffic, took off his clothes, yelled obscenities, and spit.
Police officers and a social worker were called to check on the bizarrely-acting person, but found he was not a threat to himself or others, explained Buffalo Police Captain Jeff Rinaldo.
Shortly afterward, people who saw the scuffle said Richard Hy (who police say was running an errand in the neighborhood) warned the man to get out of the street before someone gets hurt. At that point, witnesses and police both say, the man hit Hy's truck while spitting and throwing a skateboard at the officer.
The online video shows the man charging toward Hy who then punches the individual and takes him to the ground while sitting over the top of him.
The officer was not hurt and the man was taken to ECMC for evaluation.
At the time of the scuffle, Richard Hy was wearing his New York Army National Guard uniform. A public affairs officer said Hy has more than 15 years of service with the National Guard and is a Staff Sargeant and training NCO for the recruiting battalion.
The spokesperson said it would be inappropriate to make any further comments as a Buffalo Police Department investigation is already pending.
Workers near the altercation said the unidentified man hit by Richard Hy is known to frequent the area and act strangely.
While there is debate on social media whether the incident is another racial black-eye for Buffalo, several people who watched it unfold, and spoke with Ed Reilly, believe it is more a case of the system failing to properly respond to a person with possible mental health issues.
"He should have been taken to get help the first time around instead of having to be called again," said Halie Schmidt.
But some see things differently and believe Richard Hy's actions were too aggressive and were stoking racial tensions.
"It was really terrible. He didn't have to do what he did to him. The guy has a problem, he really does," said Kimberlyn Scott.
"He was being very aggressive about it. It seemed to me that he was race-baiting," said another witness who asked not to be identified.
No charges have been filed against either person at this point. Buffalo Police said Richard Hy is not suspended.
Richard Hy joined the police force in 2012 and is no stranger to controversy.
In 2016, he was suspended without pay for violating Buffalo Police social media rules for creating online comedy videos called "Angry Cops while in uniform and on police property.
Later that same year, he was suspended again and charged with harassment and 'Obstruction of Breath' after Hy and another off-duty officer got into an altercation with some West Seneca teenagers.
Richard Hy was fined and ordered to do community service.