WHITESTONE, NY – Athanasia Zapantis was “inconsolable” as she described the incident that resulted in the death of her 29-year-old son George Zapantis, according to the Daily News on June 23.
Mrs. Zapantis wept as she told the Daily News, “I’m crying because I was not here for my son in his last moments, and he died in such a horrible way. He was my left hand, my son. He was everything ... He died for no reason.”
According to the Daily News, “the bipolar George Zapantis, 29, suffered a fatal heart attack after he was tasered twice by arresting officers who found him in the basement dressed as a gladiator, wearing a helmet and wielding a samurai sword after a neighbor called the cops on Sunday night [June 21], police and neighbors said.”
The police “arrived at George Zapantis’ home on 150th Street near 20th Road in Whitestone just before 9:30 PM after the neighbor reported Zapantis was armed with a gun, authorities said. But officers arrived to find Zapantis in the basement with just the sword,” the Daily News reported.
Warning: Viewers may find the contents of this posted video disturbing
When he refused the cops’ repeated orders to drop the weapon and instead came at officers, Zapantis was tasered inside the house, police said, the Daily News reported, adding that “a video shot by a neighbor showed he was tasered again while scuffling with four cops outside the residence. It’s not clear what effect the taser had on him, but police took him into custody.”
Zapantis “suffered an apparent cardiac arrest in an ambulance, and died at New York-Presbyterian Queens, cops said,” the Daily News reported, adding that “the scene was captured on several officers’ bodycams, officials said.”
The neighbor who called the police “was a constant thorn in her son’s side, harassing George on a daily basis, the victim’s mother alleged,” the Daily News reported.
“If I see him, I’m going to spit in his face,” said Athanasia Zapantis, adding that “the man was reportedly clapping as police were handcuffing and tasering her son,” the Daily News reported.
Zapantis’ “upstairs neighbors Ricky Noble, 42, and his 16-year-old daughter Shakira, described Zapantis as a church-going man who took care of a 33-year-old sister with Down syndrome,” the Daily News reported.
The two witnessed the incident and said “Zapantis was threatening no one with the sword when the neighbor called police on him, with things escalating quickly once cops arrived,” the Daily News reported, noting that “the video indicates the suspect was unarmed when finally arrested.”
“There were moments where George did say that he couldn’t breath to (police), when they were pulling on his shirt,” Shakira told the Daily News, “And the officers said ‘Don’t play that card, no one’s choking you.’”
Athanasia Zapantis said that “the family was waiting for the results of an independent autopsy on her son’s cause of death, and expressed her frustration that police didn’t call in a social worker to defuse the situation,” the Daily News reported.
“If my son was wrong … I don’t think he was wrong at all. He had so good a heart. He was kind to everybody,” she told the Daily News.
In the video, the cops can be seen “tasering Zapantis as they struggled with him outside the door to his apartment, with one officer shouting ‘Get down! You’re going to get tasered again if you don’t get down!’” and “a second cop is heard saying ‘Hit him again!’ before Zapantis was tasered once more,” the Daily News reported.
Neighbor Ricky Noble told the Daily News, “I told the officers he’s got mental health (issues), he takes medicine, I was yelling at the officers that he was (mentally ill), and they were still tasing him. Just handcuff him and walk him out.”
The NYPD’s Force Investigation Division “has launched a probe,” the Daily News reported, noting that “a police source said based on a preliminary investigation the use of force appears to be within department guidelines.”
Noble “laid the blame for the lethal confrontation on the neighbor who called in the man-with-a-gun report when Zapantis was only outside with his sword,” the Daily News reported, noting that “the Nobles remembered Zapantis as a good neighbor who often brought them Greek food, kept an eye on his older sister, and caused no trouble.”
“My wife loved it,” Noble said of Zapantis’ meal deliveries. “He’s good. He’s a good human being. He was a good person,” the Daily News reported.
Athanasia Zapantis’ husband passed away when George was just 4 years old, the Daily News reported, adding that the distraught mother “plans to move out of the neighborhood. The memories are just too painful for her to stay.”
She told the Daily News that her son “was supposed to go to work tomorrow, I have to call them and tell them, you know, he’s not going back.”