RPD accused of excessive force, police say officers were assaulted at same scene, court case pending

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Free the People ROC, a local organization aimed at striving for racial equity and ending police brutality, gathered Thursday to bring awareness to an arrest from Sunday in which they claim officers used excessive force.

“The video you will see today was captured by neighbors and clearly documents the violence and wrongful arrest of black people,” said Stanley Martin of Free the People ROC. “What would have happened that night if the neighbors weren’t there? We are sick and tired of police violence and the lies told by RPD.”

On July 5, officers with the Rochester Police Department officers responded to the area of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street for the report of a male shot. Police say officers found a 16-year-old who was transported by ambulance to an area hospital.

According to RPD, while officers were investigating the crime, they were approached by a group of around 25 people who began to yell at the officers.

“Two members of the group grabbed an officer’s arms and then one of them punched an officer in the head, causing a laceration. Another officer was injured as he attempted to assist the first officer,” RPD Lt. Sam Lucyshyn said of the incident in an email.

That incident resulted in four arrests:

  • Bartholomew R. Murdock, age 30, a city resident, charged with Assault in the second degree to a Police Officer and Obstruction of Governmental Administration in the second degree (taken to booking).
  • Alyssa L. Sadwick, age 28, a city resident, charged with Obstruction of Governmental Administration in the second degree, Resisting Arrest, and Disorderly Conduct (issued an appearance ticket).
  • Christian Nelson, age 29, a city resident, charged with Obstruction of Governmental Administration in the second degree and Resisting Arrest (issued an appearance ticket).
  • Joel Dow, age 36, a Brighton resident, charged with Obstruction of Governmental Administration in the second degree, Resisting Arrest, and Disorderly Conduct (issued an appearance ticket).

MORE| RPD Chief on weekend violence: ‘Families, communities are being destroyed’

Organizers of the Free the People ROC press conference say that witnesses at the scene during the the time of the arrests say the details provided by RPD are false, and say they have video evidence that corroborates their side of the story.

That video did not show the events that led up to the incident caught on tape, or what transpired after, but did show an individual being handcuffed and detained at the scene.

“We demand an immediate investigation of all the RPD officers involved in the scene that night and we further demand that all charges brought against the people that were arrested be dropped immediately,” Martin said.

Press conference with Free the People ROC

“At no point did anyone strike an RPD officer,” Martin said. “We’re all organizers, were all activists and we know what that means and those charges are quite serious; its really a full on lie. I stand here today as someone who was also on the scene that day — I saw what happened and at no point did anyone strike the RPD.”

“If you need help, it doesn’t matter, they think you’re there causing the issues,” said Lakaya Leys, a witness who lives next door to where the incident occurred.

According to an RPD spokesperson Thursday afternoon, police detained a few individuals at the scene for investigative purposes and for the interest of securing a crime scene where someone had been shot.

Officials say officers did utilize pepper spray to “effect the arrest of one individual.” Police add that the alleged assault on an officer is a pending court case.

In regards to the police response, officials say “officers were responding to a call for a 16-year-old that was shot. Not only did they render assistance to the victim, but they had to investigate the crime. Part of the investigative process is securing the crime scene.”

Press conference with RPD Deputy Chief Mark Mura:

“Without having seen all the video, I’ll explain my perspective on what takes place on a crime scene; and in that particular incident, officers responded to a scene, they were investigating a male who had been shot,” Mura said. “During that investigation, you have to secure the crime scene. Put up tape, and there’s a litany of reasons why that has to take place for the security of the scene so hopefully we can make an arrest and prevent further violence in the city.”

Mura said it’s important for civilians to acknowledge the police perimeter so officers can conduct their investigation.

“When folks don’t listen to the officers on scene, and they go past that crime scene tape, they are in effect causing issues further down the road to hopefully secure not only an arrest, but a conviction for whoever committed that crime,” Mura said. “So when somebody goes behind the crime scene tape, they are in essence breaking the law. What we try to do is move folks out of the crime scene, when possible, by asking them — and in this particular case it didn’t appear as though that’s what took place, as far as people moving outside of the crime scene when asked.”

Mura said the police perimeter is important because there are a lot of unknowns when officers respond to potentially violent scenes

“When we first arrive on scene, if we have someone who had just been, in this particular case shot — we don’t know who the suspect is, we don’t if the suspect is still on scene, we don’t know anything about what took place,” Mura said. “And we’re trying to find all that out, along with rendering aid to a victim, who in this case had just been shot. So we ask people to step back so we can gauge what’s going on. In this particular case the individual [who was handcuffed in the video sent to media] was not listening to the officer and he was detained. He was ultimately not arrested. He was detained and moved off the scene so we could secure the crime scene, and then he was released.”

In regards, to the alleged attack on responding officers, Mura echoed RPD Chief La’Ron Singletary’s sentiments from Monday’s press conference, saying it’s never okay to put hands on an officer.

“There’s absolutely no room for that,” Mura said. “If for whatever reason, you or anyone you know are on the scene where officers are conducting an investigation, and you don’t agree with what’s taking place, and you don’t understand what’s going on, that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that, keep video taping. Listen to what the officers say saying, step aside, dial 911 and ask for a supervisor to come to the scene. It’s never OK to put your hands on a police officer, ever.”

Regarding the pending court case of the alleged assault on responding officers at the scene:

“That’s a pending court case,” Mura said. “And all that information will come out. I know there’s been some FOIL requests put forward, and eventually all the video will be released through the FOIL requests, I’m assuming, and I’ll let that answer itself.”

During Monday’s press conference, Chief Singletary said officers were assaulted at the scene, and Mura said Thursday he backed up what the chief said.

With differing accounts of the incident from both police and Free the People ROC, Mura was asked if the groups would come together for a meeting.

“I have no idea,” Mura said. “I don’t expect we’ll do anything outside of the investigation at this point and let the process go through the court system.”

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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