Testimony continued on Thursday in the trial of the Rochester police officer accused of beating a man in a case of mistaken identity.
Officer Michael Sippel faces one count of assault in the third related to the attack of Christopher Pate. Pate said he suffered fractures to his skull and jaw when two officers arrested him after mistaking him for a wanted man.
Sippel was indicted on the assault charge, but his partner, Spenser McAvoy, was not. McAvoy took the stand on Thursday as his witness testimony continued.
While Wednesday’s testimony relied heavily on the body cam footage, Thursday’s focused on the issue of mistaken identity. On the day of the alleged assault, Sipple and his partner stopped Christopher Pate because they thought pate was a wanted man, James Barrett. Pate initially resisted, but eventually flashed his ID. Sipple’s attorney contended that was not enough to prevent an arrest.
“What we know is that the individual never stopped never produced an ID flashed it at best and that these officers reasonably believed it was still James Barrett,” attorney Clark Zimmermann said.
Sipple’s partner, officer Spencer McAvoy, is the one who initiated the stop because he thought Pate was James Barrett. McAvoy said he had once arrested Barrett and he’s seen a wanted board and an email with his photo. He said he asked pate for ID three times and pate eventually flashed an EBT card. McAvoy testified that Pate didn’t stop walking to allow him to read it fully.
“Does an individual have the right to walk away? Absolutely. Does an individual have the right to walk away when police are conducting an investigation? No,” said Zimmermann.
However, McAvoy said he did see enough of the card to know it didn’t say “Barrett”. He said that’s when his body camera turned off and when officer Sippel approached. The alleged assault took place moments later.
Sippel’s attorney asked officer McAvoy if he told officer Sippel the man they were with wasn’t James Barrett. McAvoy said he didn’t because he still had reason to believe it was.
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