ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Stay up to date on the latest headlines in today’s Sunrise Smart Start on Tuesday, August 16, 2022.


Teenage duo arrested after gunpoint carjacking, police chase in Rochester

A 16-year-old and an 18-year-old were arrested and charged after stealing a car at gunpoint and leading police on a chase through the city Tuesday overnight.

According to officials, patrolling officers responded to the 100 block of Thomas Street just after midnight for a ShotSpotter activation. While en route to the scene, they were notified of a carjacking robbery in the same area and eventually located the victim who police say had his car stolen at gunpoint.

Authorities believe the suspects fired at least one round from a firearm during the robbery. According to them, the victim was not injured and an investigation ensued.

Around three hours later, officers made contact with the stolen vehicle in the area of Parshells Avenue and Stout Street. Officials say after a failed traffic stop, the operator accelerated away and initiated a pursuit which later ended once the car hit a curb near Bay Street and Portland Avenue.

Both driver and passenger attempted to flee on foot but were eventually caught by officers. The suspects, a 16-year-old and 18-year-old were treated for non-life-threatening injuries and transported to jail.

Rochester police say this is an active investigation and charges for the teenage duo are pending.

State regulators visit House of Mercy in Rochester

One week after a fatal stabbing at the House of Mercy shelter, state regulators traveled to Rochester to meet with executives.

The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance confirmed that staff visited the shelter Monday, but would not provide any details of that meeting.

The House of Mercy’s former executive director, Sister Grace Miller, has some ideas about how to improve safety at the facility– which is the largest homeless shelter in Western New York.

“Maybe having persons here to make sure people are safe, to file a system a safety system with in terms of people entering the building and leaving the building, and also having security posted here,” she said. “I think it would be a good idea because there’s a real live body there.”

The shelter has been closed since two men were stabbed on August 7. Michael Nairy died at the scene. Another man in his 20’s is recovering from his wounds. The man accused of the unprovoked attack, 40-year-old Nathaniel Jeanpierre III is facing murder and attempted murder charges.

Planned Parenthood sues Town of Henrietta over permit denial

Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York has sued the Town of Henrietta, after the town denied a special use permit application.

The special use permit, which was denied in a 3-2 vote in June, would have allowed Planned Parenthood to open a new facility in a plaza off Jefferson Road. Planned Parenthood claims the town rewrote its zoning laws specifically to deny the permit.

The plaza at 376 Jefferson Rd. is labeled a commercial B-1 district. In the 3-2 vote to deny the permit, three town board members argued a medical facility providing surgical procedures in this complex violates town codes because it is “not consistent with the character of those retail uses” already in the plaza.

Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York CEO Michelle Casey said the town board has approved permits for other medical facilities in B-1 Commercial Zones, including the UR Orthopedics & Physical Performance Center by the mall in 2020.

“There’s tons of urgent cares and dental offices and vision care in the B-1 District in Henrietta,” Casey said, “the biggest one being the University of Rochester putting in that orthopedic center at Marketplace Mall, which is right down the street. They have very little B-2 which is where you can place a health center without having to ask for special permission.”

Members of the Henrietta Town Board would not comment on this pending litigation. Back in June, Henrietta Building and Fire Prevention Director Kevin Wilson stated to the Town Board Planned Parenthood’s application “was found to be in order and all necessary documentation was included and correct.” But in their narrative for denial, councilmembers wrote “the proposed surgical center doesn’t align with the intention of which this property is zoned.”

“This really should have been a simple land use decision according to Henrietta Town Code and it turned into politics of abortion care, rather than having us evaluated for land use in Henrietta like every other business,” Casey said. “There are people currently going without care because there are not enough appointments for people who don’t have the ability to pay for sexual and reproductive healthcare. So, that’s our main desire to expand our services at this property.”

The first appearance date for this case is scheduled for August 25th. Planned Parenthood is asking the judge to instruct the Henrietta Town Board to approve the special use permit, and have the town pay for its legal expenses.

Body pulled out of Black Creek in Chili

Police are investigating after a man was found dead in Black Creek Monday.

The body was found close to the Black Creek Boat Launch near the Genesee River outlet around 2:15 p.m. First responders arriving on scene made rescue and resuscitation attempts, but they were not successful.

This was the second body found floating in area waters after a deceased male was located in the Genesee River around 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Investigators are currently working to determine the identities of both bodies.

City Council holds confirmation hearing for Rochester Police Chief David Smith

The first permanent RPD Chief in two years had his confirmation hearing Monday afternoon in front of Rochester City Council.

David Smith has been acting as interim chief of the Rochester Police Department since he was sworn in in Oct. 2021. He is the fifth city police chief in four years, Councilmember Willie Lightfoot pointed out during the hearing.

Last month, following a national search, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans decided to appoint Smith as the new permanent chief. His long-term positioning will be finalized tomorrow with a vote from City Council.

At the time of Evans’ announcement, Chief Smith said his priorities included hiring more officers, building a command staff, increasing training, and getting a handle on the gun violence tearing through the city streets.

At the hearing Monday, those goals remained largely the same. Here are some of the big takeaways from Monday’s session.

Overtime

Councilmember Mitch Gruber spoke with Smith on overtime challenges and the cost to the department, and described it as an ongoing issue he’s experienced since he took office a few years ago.

“This is not a new problem. This is a longstanding problem. And every chief who has sat [in] that seat before, and every time we’ve had a confirmation hearing, and every time we’ve had a budget hearing, we’ve asked questions about what is going to be done to curtail overtime costs,” Councilmember Gruber said. “It’s bad for our city’s budget. On top of that […] it’s bad for the officer’s health, and it’s certainly bad for the community to have officers who are exhausted on the beat all the time.”

Smith emphasized his goals of reducing overtime and offered up some data to explain the long hours clocked, stating that RPD, like many organizations, is experiencing a staffing shortage causing the jump in extra hours.

“Several officers had actually been on the clock continuously for over 30 hours,” Smith said. “Which not only is a violation of the law, it’s also a serious concern for everyone’s health.”

As an example of the severity of the shortage, Smith pulled data that said the day prior, RPD had 37 officer slots empty, the eight-hour shifts for which are filled by overtime.

“So, I’m sure you can imagine, when you do the math, what the price tag for that is alone,” Smith said. He highlighted that filling those slots would bring RPD’s coverage to what they feel is the acceptable minimum, not the ideal.

To remedy the overtime issues, Smith said he instilled a 16-hour limit on workdays and is pushing recruitment as well as centralizing RPD’s responses within their many offices.

Equitable Crime and Diversity in Policing

Councilmember Harris talked about Crime and “open air drug markets” — and how do we address crime equitably — Smith says we need to have more street-level drug enforcement. 

Harris also asked how can we recruit more people who are more representative of the population. The Chief said there is a lot of diversity in the upcoming graduating class. 

He highlighted “customer service” as an essential component of policing that he would like to work on improving.

2020 Protests

Tensions rose slightly when Councilmember Stanley Martin began her questioning, which referenced Smith’s role in the 2020 protests. She opened by citing the recent changes to RPD policy on protest and mass gatherings — which Smith is credited for having a large hand in — and asked why he did not act to stop the violence in the moment.

General Order 680, which dictates RPD responses to protests, notably states that “chemical agents will not be used to disperse a crowd,” and pushes RPD’s role as an observer and de-escalation force above all else. GO 680 maintained that the de-escalation policy will remain in place regardless of whether water bottles are thrown, the “occasional firework” is discharged, or the assembly is declared unlawful — all incidents that happened during the 2020 protests that ousted the last RPD chief, La’Ron Singletary.

Weather forecast: Clouds to kick off Tuesday ahead of a shower this afternoon

An upper level low is spinning in our general vicinity and will continue to do so for much of the week ahead. This upper low will help support isolated showers and thunderstorms favoring the afternoon.