ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A hearing about violence in the City of Rochester, police shootings, and overall public safety erupted into a shouting match among city council members Thursday afternoon.
City Councilmembers began the meeting by asking Rochester Chief of Police David Smith about the details surrounding the September 25th shooting on First Street. A police chase ended when a suspect was critically injured that night.
“They were engaged in a struggle over the firearm and it discharged five times, ” explained Chief Smith. According to police reports the last round from the officer’s gun struck the suspect in the jaw.
Two days after the shooting, City Council Vice President Mary Lupien and Councilmembers Kim Smith and Stanley Martin issued a statement criticizing news reports and the Rochester Police Department. It sparked backlash from other members of the city council who called the statement irresponsible, premature, and inaccurate.
“Was this gentleman shot while fleeing an RPD officer?” asked Councilmember Michael Patterson. “No Sir” replied Chief Smith.
Councilmember Stanley Martin in a back-and-forth with the police chief questioned RPD’s policy on pursuing a suspect. Martin asked Chief Smith about the release of the police body camera footage and if the evidence had been provided to the Police Accountability Board as requested. He clarified that the video was not given to the PAB.
RPD released a compilation of videos and photos to the media three days after the shooting. Several members made comments about what happened that night and expressed their opinions about the images.
“I saw a man get out of a vehicle that fit the same description of the suspect and fire shots at young men on bicycles in the middle of our streets. That’s a problem for me,” said Councilmember Willie Lightfoot.
“I’m not saying what he was doing was right,” said Councilmember Stanley Martin, “I’m saying that he is at the end of the day a human being, and at the end of the day human lives matter. It’s always a tragedy when someone is shot.”
When Councilmember Patterson directed his comments to Lupien, Smith, and Martin the tension intensified.
“It is unfortunate that you three make up the defund, demoralize and I actually believe your other elements would be disarm and disperse caucus in our body but that is your right and your choice, ” Patterson said. He accused his colleagues of overlooking the facts of the case. “We could have very easily had an officer killed and something tells me based upon the responses we had when an officer was killed last year, that y’all wouldn’t have had this kind of energy if it had been an officer laying there dead”
Before Patterson could finish, Councilmember Smith accused City Council President Miguel Melendez of organizing the hearing so members could “sit on a soapbox”. Members continued to shout and talk over one another until Melendez announced a five-minute recess and the mics were cut off.
When the members returned they moved on to other business. Chief Smith confirmed the investigation into the shooting is ongoing.