ROCHESTER, N.Y. — In a statement written and released before they watched the body camera video of a police-involved shooting Monday, three members of the Rochester City Council criticized police and suggested non-lethal weapons should be used.
Mary Lupien, Stanley Martin and Kim Smith wrote: “Police are equipped with non-lethal weapons intended to preserve life, yet these shootings continue to occur, causing irreparable harm to the victims, their families and the Rochester community at large.”
However, when we looked at the body camera video carefully after it was released by RPD Thursday, we saw the police officer involved running with his taser not his gun.
And in a statement Friday afternoon, five members of council released their own statement calling the statement of Lupien, Martin and Smith “blatantly irresponsible.”
“The statement released by our colleagues prioritized personal politics over the safety of the Rochester community,” council members Miguel Melendez, Willie Lightfoot, LaShay Harris, Mitch Gruber and Michael Patterson wrote. “We condemn that practice and call on our colleagues to speak out in the future in a way that brings unity to our body and community by fostering respect and dignity for all.”
Council member Jose Peo was not included in the statement.
This started with gunshots Monday night. The suspected shooter ran from police. Seconds before the officer caught him, the video shows the officer running while holding his taser. Six seconds after the officer and suspect collide and start fighting, you can hear the taser firing.
“The body-worn camera footage demonstrates that in this case, the RPD did exactly what this Council and our constituents have asked of them,” the statement of the majority of council members wrote. “Officers pursued someone who was clearly endangering the community around him, but they also showed restraint and demonstrated compassion.”
Ten seconds later in the video, you hear the suspect tell the officer to shoot him and you hear the gun shots.
Suspect: “Shoot me (inaudible).”
Ofc: Let go!
Suspect: “Shoot me! (bang bang) Shoot me!”
Suspect: “Shoot me! (bang)”
Two more shots would be fired. The suspect was hit in the jaw. He is alive at Strong Memorial Hospital.
“I felt personally that it was very irresponsible to release that statement particularly without viewing the body camera footage,” Council President Miguel Melendez told us Thursday afternoon after he had watched the video.
Then, referring to the statement of Lupien, Martin and Smith, he said “it referenced that non-lethal options should be used first. And in this incident it’s very clear that the officer was actually running with the taser.”
On Friday, 10 police chiefs including RPD Chief David Smith and Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter signed a letter critical of the council members, writing basic facts “are missing” in their statement. They wrote “This young officer was doing his job to protect city residents from the lawlessness that these legislators both support and enable with their reckless, extreme behavior over time. This is just the latest example. It must be rejected outright.”
I wanted to see if council member Lupien, Martin and Smith watched the video and changed their minds. Mary Lupien told me she did watch but did not have time to talk to text a statement before our shows tonight.
Council Member Martin texted that she would release a statement shortly.
Here’s today’s full statement by Melendez, Gruber, Harris, Lightfoot and Patterson:
“We, the majority of Rochester City Council, are deeply disappointed by the recent statement released by three of our colleagues to the media regarding the officer-involved shooting on September 25th. We recognize our colleagues’ right to express their views and opinions on any matter, but to comment on this incident without viewing the body-worn camera video was blatantly irresponsible.
“In the future, we strongly recommend that our colleagues watch the body-worn camera footage and look at all associated evidence before rushing to judgment.
“This Council has consistently asked the Rochester Police Department to improve their practices, specifically when it comes to use of force. The body-worn camera footage demonstrates that in this case, the RPD did exactly what this Council and our constituents have asked of them. Officers pursued someone who was clearly endangering the community around him, but they also showed restraint and demonstrated compassion.
“Specifically, the officer involved deliberately used less-than-lethal methods in pursuit of the individual, and once the situation escalated to the use of the officer’s firearm, additional Officers worked diligently to save his life. If we are going to call RPD out when they misstep, we must also recognize when they do the right thing.
“The statement released by our colleagues prioritized personal politics over the safety of the Rochester community. We condemn that practice and call on our colleagues to speak out in the future in a way that brings unity to our body and community by fostering respect and dignity for all.”
And here is the previous statement Wednesday by Martin, Smith and Lupien:
“We share our deepest sympathies with the young man who was shot by the Rochester Police Department this week, and offer our condolences to his family. Following this traumatic incident, we can only hope for healing and recovery.
The news of yet another young man shot while fleeing an RPD officer has unfortunately become all too familiar in our city. This is not normal — it is unacceptable, and we reject all efforts by the RPD to make our community believe otherwise.
Media explanations alluding to former convictions and the possession of drugs do not address the potential loss of human life and are not satisfactory justification for shooting a fellow human being. Police are equipped with non-lethal weapons intended to preserve life, yet these shootings continue to occur, causing irreparable harm to the victims, their families and the Rochester community at large.“
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