ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Stay up to date on the latest headlines in today’s Sunrise Smart Start on Friday, August 12, 2022.

RFD firefighter intends to sue over ‘Juneteenth’ party

Rochester Firefighter Jerrod Jones talked publicly Thursday about his intention to sue the City of Rochester and the Rochester Fire Department claiming they discriminated against him because of his race.

Jones, a Black man and 14-year veteran of RFD, says on July 7 Captain Jeffrey Krywy forced him and two other subordinates to accompany him to a private party during their shift.

Upon arrival, Jones says he noticed a large cutout of former President Donald Trump along with two large Juneteenth celebration flags propped up on the lawn not far from buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Juneteenth is a holiday that celebrates the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans.

Jones adds there was a woman in a red wig calling herself Rachel and he claims she was impersonating Monroe County Legislator Rachel Barnhart while party attendees shouted crude comments in her direction.

In addition, Jones says he saw photos of other Democratic politicians and Rochester Police Accountability Board members on stakes planted throughout the backyard.

At one point Jones says he saw Krywy receive a party favor bag that contained a bottle of cognac and a Juneteenth commemorative cup.

Jones believes he spotted a senior member of the Rochester Police Department at the party.

In response, RPD released a statement saying an internal investigation is underway adding, “if any members are found to have been involved in these vile allegations, appropriate disciplinary measures will be taken.”

Jones says he alerted RFD leadership the next day, but was still placed with Krywy for his next shift.

“Jerrod tried every other thing he could to resolve this and was not given an adequate response,” said his attorney Nate McMurray, as Jones and a group of friends, family, colleagues and a few local lawmakers stood before Rochester City Hall.

News 8 has contacted the Rochester Fire Department and the union that represents Rochester firefighters — IAFF Local 1071 — for comment, but we has yet to hear back.

Attempts to reach Krywy have been unsuccessful.

The firefighters union released a statement Thursday, saying, “The Rochester Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 1071 finds today’s allegations regarding events during the incident of July 7th extremely disturbing. Our union has zero tolerance for racist attitudes and behaviors, either on or off our jobs. We will await the findings and details of a full investigation of this matter, before making further comments or taking responsive actions.”

Rochester Mayor Malik Evans says the investigation into the matter has concluded and the fire chief will be making a determination on the case soon.

He added, “I’m pretty distressed today about this … I will tell you that I’m not happy about what I’ve heard so far.”

Krywy has been suspended with pay while Jones is on leave and, according to the Notice of Claim, is “suffering emotional distress and fear of retaliation from Krywy and others.”

Jones talked Thursday about how difficult it was to go public about an incident that involves the RFD, a department he says he loves with everything in him, but added he felt it was necessary.

“I have two children that maybe one day will be inspired to be firefighters and I don’t want them to have to experience what I experienced. I wouldn’t want your kids to experience that,” Jones said.

‘Peace BBQ’ calls on city men to help stem tide of gun violence

As the City of Rochester copes with the 48th homicide of 2022, Pathways to PeaceRise Up RochesterRoc the Peace, and other organizations came together on Hudson Avenue Thursday evening for a community bar-be-que. It’s a series of continued outreach on the streets to help people change their minds about gun violence.

Victor Saunders is the mayor’s advisor on violence prevention. He says this is a continued show of strength to help change the tide of violence.

“Basically going street to street, house to house, letting people know who we are, letting people know there are resources available,” said Saunders.

And getting men out here in the ranks is to provide examples for the younger crowd, and show a different path.

Devon Riggins says it starts with God. “For me to be that positive role model, I have to show them the actual right way,” said Riggins.

Jerome Underwood with Action for a Better Community and Army veteran Wily Cunningham say they want to break up the gang-to-prison routine. 

“A lot of the brothers and men you see here are working ‘upstream’ doing youth development work,” said Underwood.

“People getting killed, you go to prison, coming back, going to prison… it’s the same cycle,” said Cunningham.

Mothers from ‘Rise Up Rochester’ and ‘Roc the Peace’ were there to support the men; each woman has her own story of loss that motivated them to action. 

“I lost my 16-year-old son Christopher Jones on November 17, 2007, and I’ve been out here ever since,” said Sirena Cotton with Roc the Peace.

“I never thought I’d be seeing what I’m seeing. It’s rough,” says Wanda Ridgeway of Rise Up Rochester. She says these gatherings allow grieving parents a chance to lean on one another for needed support.

Assemblyman Demond Meeks (D-Dist. 137) says this is now the third week of combined outreach… and they’re not slowing down. “We will not continue to allow our differences to divide us. We care for our community and that’s why we’re present,” said Meeks.

Rochester parolee pleads not guilty in killing of 2 men on Sixth St. and Roycroft Dr.

A Rochester parolee pled not guilty to the murder of two men Thursday, one of which was the city’s most recent homicide.

According to officials, parole absconder Christopher Williams was arrested and charged with two counts of murder in the second degree for the shooting deaths of Marcus Bennett and Kenneth Johnson.

Bennett and Johnson were both killed as a result of altercations that involved the parolee, police say.

RPD documents show that 47-year-old Bennett was fatally shot on the Saturday evening of July 16 and later found by responding officers in the backyard of 287 Sixth Street. Investigators at the time said learned that the address was frequently used to sell marijuana after finding a “menu” posted in the front window where transactions were being carried out.

Authorities never connected the sale of marijuana to the death of Bennett and instead said he was shot as a result of a fight with Williams.

Nearly a month later, police responded to the 300 block of Roycroft Drive for multiple reports of gunshots fired. When they arrived they found 26-year-old Kenneth Johnson inside a residence suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a nearby hospital.

During the course of the investigation, police determined Johnson was hanging out at the residence with a number of people, including Williams. Officials believe an altercation ensued between the two men, leading to the parolee allegedly shooting and killing Johnson.

The alleged murder of Johnson marked the city’s 47th homicide and it’s third homicide in the span of three days. His death came ahead of a 68-year-old man who was attacked at a homeless shelter and killed Sunday, and a 16-year-old Rochester student who was shot and killed in front of him home. 

Members of the United States Marshal’s Violent Felony Task Force located Williams on Wednesday afternoon at a residence in Irondequoit and took him into custody without further incident.

Officials say he will be arraigned Thursday on two counts of murder in the second degree, along with several counts of criminal possession of a weapon.

Williams is currently on parole for a 2015 arson conviction after intentionally starting a fire at a location with a person inside. He was sentenced to five years in prison for that offense. As an inmate, he was convicted for possessing prison and given an additional year in jail. Police say he was released from prison and placed on parole in September of 2021.

Since his release on parole, authorities say Williams has (been):

  • Arrested for a domestic-related felony criminal mischief in November of 2021
  • Caught on camera footage damaging a marked police car by punching it multiple times
  • Charged with an additional count of criminal mischief
  • Cut off his parole ankle monitor and was arrested on May 19, 2022
  • Smashed out windows of a house during a domestic dispute on May 30, 2022
  • Cut off his ankle monitor a second time on July 5, 2022

Monroe County Health Commissioner Dr. Mendoza reappointed to 6-year term

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello announced the reappointment of County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza to a six-year term Thursday.

The county executive is set to be accompanied by local medical leaders at the time of the briefing such as Dr. Robert Mayo, Chief Medical Officer for RRH, Dr. Theresa Green, Monroe County Board of Health President and Chief Medical Officer for UR Medical Center Dr. Michael Apostolakos.

“When Dr. Mendoza was named commissioner in 2016, he came in at a time when the department of health shouldered intense instability,” Bello said. “But under his leadership, the department’s outreach to health and our quality of life has risen. Thank you, I look forward to doing work with you side by side.”

Dr. Mendoza spoke at the press conference and said that he is thankful to be appointed twice as the Commissioner of Public Health.

“To the public, thank you for your patience and your support,” Dr. Mendoza said. “Serving you is the reason I am here today and is the reason why I want to be here next year and beyond.”

Dr. Michael Mendoza first served as the medical director of Highland Family Medicine in 2009. He then served as a clinical assistant professor at the University of Chicago. He was then appointed as Public Health Commissioner in 2016.

Dr. Mendoza is known for several intervention programs, but his work began fighting the county’s opioid epidemic in 2017. Since then, he had a hand in forming the city’s response effort against COVID-19 among a number of advancements in major healthcare system issues.

Under Dr. Mendoza’s leadership, Monroe County administered more than 1 million vaccinations against COVID, helping raise the county’s population with a completed series of vaccination to 72.8%.

According to health officials, Monroe County has seen a total of 1,933 deaths due to COVID.

Bello said the health commissioner played a major role in safely reopening businesses and getting children back to schools — an achievement the executive believes cannot be overlooked.

“This is obvious to me and obvious to the community,” Bello said. “The clear choice to lead our public health efforts into our future is Dr. Mendoza.

“To say that Mike [Dr. Mendoza] deserves this reappointment is like saying Josh Allen deserves a shot at starting quarterback,” Dr. Apostolakos said with a smirk on his face.

Dr. Mendoza last addressed the public during a news briefing in regards to the county’s response against the monkeypox virus.

Monkeypox was originally detected in Monroe County in the early stages of July when a local male resident was confirmed to have contracted the virus while traveling outside the country.

“People who are not experiencing any of the symptoms, the current assumption is that there is no reason to worry,” Dr. Mendoza said at the time. This is not like other viral illnesses like chickenpox.” The duration of the isolation really depends on that individual’s healing progress — unlike COVID.”

Ever since then, county case numbers have risen to around 10 in total.

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency, and New York State remains the epicenter of the virus, attracting the most cases in the nation.

City of Rochester to host the 2022 New York State Canal Conference

The City of Rochester will serve as the host of the 2022 New York State Canal Conference, Mayor Malik Evans announced on Thursday.

This is the first time the conference will be held in Rochester, as Mayor Evans says it’s a great opportunity to showcase the Roc the Riverway initiative while sharing future plans for the canal and river.

“One of the more exciting aspects of this conference is the timing,” Mayor Evans said. “Because it’s gonna coincide with our ROC the Riverway weekend.”

He also said those who attend the conference will get to see the Aqueduct Reimagine project, explaining the aqueduct was a key piece of the canal system that allows the canal to cross the Genesee River.

The conference — scheduled for October 2-4 — will take place at the Strathallan Hotel.

Weather forecast: Sunny skies pair with cooler temperatures

The first evening of the weekend will be a great one to get out and grill on, or just to sit out on the front porch. Clear skies and lows galling back towards the 50s will be the name of the game once again.