The video, published Friday, was filmed by passerby Brian Fraser and begins with two security guards at the Century 21 department store pinning 19-year-old Victor Roberson to the sidewalk in downtown Manhattan. Roberson repeatedly yelled "I can't breathe," a phrase nationally famous for being uttered 11 times by Eric Garner when he was placed in a banned chokehold and killed by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014 in Staten Island, New York City.
A woman then begins protesting Roberson's treatment. Just shy of a minute into the video, one of the guards can be seen punching Roberson while he is still pinned to the ground by other security guards.
Fraser told The Huffington Post after the incident that Roberson was "compliant" with the store guards and that they initiated the violence. "No matter what accusation, they should not have hit him," he said.
Roberson was being escorted through the street with his hands behind his back, presumably having been accused of shoplifting, before Fraser began recording. "The next thing I see is the boy being tackled to the ground and a struggle ensued," Fraser told Huffington Post. "They began choking him and putting their hands over his mouth."
Store employees repeatedly told Fraser to stop filming and to leave for his own safety. Fraser said that by the end of the struggle, guards had bloodied Roberson and left him with a welt on his forehead. "They picked him up and pinned him against the wall when one of the security guards hit him again," he said.
Twenty-four-year-old Acosta Wilson, one of the security guards, "engaged [Roberson] in a physical altercation" while detaining him. The NYPD has accused Wilson of using excessive force, for which he was arrested.
According to the NYPD, officers were first called to the area over a report of a young man illegally placing items in his backpack. Roberson was treated at a local hospital for pain, then arrested for allegedly stealing two pairs of shoes and charged with petty larceny and possession of stolen goods.
The department store put out a statement informing the public that they've suspended and are investigating one of their employees over the incident, although it isn't clear if that employee is Wilson. "We take this situation very seriously. The asset protection team member involved in the apprehension of the alleged shoplifter has been suspended pending an investigation. We will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement," the statement reads.