ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A local couple says they never expected a quick run to the store would end in a violent confrontation with police and accusations that they tried to start a riot. Kimani Addison and Desiree Shuman say they were on the way to grab snacks and drinks Tuesday evening when they saw someone they recognized on the street.
“He’s actually my barber so I waved him down trying to see when I can get a haircut,” explains Addison.
That’s when a fleet of Albany Police Department officers turned up. Chief Eric Hawkins says the friend Addison was talking to was identified through surveillance video that showed a man trying to break past barriers around the police south station.
“That person had an open container of gasoline, which actually spilled when that person fell trying to apparently breach the protective barriers. Of course, four nights ago that station was under siege. People were lobbing boulders and rocks and stones and damaging property and apparently trying to breach the station. So officers are on heightened alert,” Chief Hawkins explains during a news conference Wednesday.
“From the perception of these officers, they have a person that’s trying to breach our station and potentially set a fire to it,” he goes on to say.
“I’m a big supporter of civil and constitutional rights, so I said okay, I don’t want his rights to get violated, so I’m going to record,” Addison recounts to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Addison says the initial responding officers had no problem with him recording the arrest at a safe distance. However when backup arrived, a now viral video shows things quickly escalated.
**WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE**
The video shows Addison backed away as an officer orders, but refused to move back any further once he reached his own vehicle.
“The officers’ perception at that time was that they were being interfered with by two people who had been talking to that suspect prior,” Chief Hawkins recounts of the officers he spoke to and after reading their written reports.
The video shows both Addison and Shuman asked the officer to move away from their vehicle, Addison repeating “I’m not a threat.”
“I kept telling him I had constitutional rights to free speech and he said, well keep swearing and see what happens,” Addison explains.
All parties then appear in the video to be walking away; however, Addison says the officers came right back.
“I was yelling at the top of my lungs, because I am very upset now. I was saying I have the right to say whatever I choose, I can speak how I please. I did swear at them, I said ‘F***ing puppets.’ That’s when they came running back over saying, I told you to shut your mouth,” he says.
“For them to come back just because they heard him curse is childish,” Shuman says. “As police officers, they are supposed to be held to a higher standard. They’re supposed to be the ones to walk away. I’ve seen people saying, he could’ve walked away, he could’ve not been talking. He could’ve, but he has the right to say what he wants to say.”
“The one standing in front of me said, you know what you’re doing right? You’re inciting a riot. That’s when I said, there’s no riot taking place here so how can I have incite one?” Addison remembers.
“There was no gathering, it was just us. But when police show up, what are people going to do? All the people in the residential areas, the people all around, of course they’re going to come out and see what’s going on. But even that is the right to peaceably assemble, as long as nothing becomes chaotic, correct? If I’m saying what I choose, that’s freedom of speech. So nothing I did there was unconstitutional. Nothing I did.”
Viewers can see in the video officers then grabbed Addison. He says he was punched in the head and tased while on the ground.
“I was tased while they were already on top of me while I was on my back,” he goes on to add while showing us his burn marks.
Shuman also showed NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton bruises on one arm and her other arm in a sling from a reported fractured elbow. Chief Eric Hawkins says he is aware of the “alleged injuries” but says none were reported at the time of the incident.
Addison and Shuman were arrested and Addison says he was charged with inciting a riot. Chief Hawkins says since then and after a review with the officers and Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, all charges against Addison and Shuman were dropped.
“I think that, especially when dealing with something that is a use of force situation, we have to make sure that we get it right, and there’s a question as to whether it was right — whether their perceptions were right. This is not an indictment on the officers, this is just making sure that if we charge someone with an offense and we make a discretionary decision, that we’re making the right one. If it’s not, we make the appropriate corrections,” Hawkins says.
He says rising tensions surrounding unrest over the death of George Floyd and days of recent violent riots in the city may have played a factor.
“It’s entirely possible that stress and tension contributed to a discretionary decision, and it doesn’t mean the officer was bad, if that was the case. But we just need to know if that decision was the appropriate one,” he says.
“You don’t treat every individual like that. It doesn’t give you the right, just because you’re nervous or you’re on edge, does not give you the right to treat individuals the way they did,” Shuman responds.
Hawkins also adds an internal investigation by the Office of Professional Standards is underway.