A Rochester police officer shot a man Monday night after that man allegedly tackled and punched the officer before fighting him for his pistol, RPD Chief David Smith said Thursday.
Body-worn camera footage released Thursday shows the still-unnamed officer pursuing a Chevy Silverado in his patrol car around 10 p.m. Monday. Smith said the officer was responding to a report of shots fired on Seventh Street when he saw the truck quickly leaving the area and gave chase.
The Silverado comes to a stop before the driver runs out and the officer pursues on foot. Following the man into the backyard of 360 First Street, the officer draws his taser and demands the man show him his hands.
The man then tackles the officer, the footage shows, before the video goes black. Police said that the stun gun discharged into the ground and that the wires made contact with the officer. An electrical buzzing sound accompanied by the officer’s groans are audible in the footage.
The man then tells the officer multiple times to shoot him. The officer yells something unintelligible and then yells “stop.” Five shots ring out, and the man falls silent. Smith said the gunfire hit the man once in the jaw.
During a press conference Thursday before the footage’s release, Smith said the shooting happened when the man tackled the officer to the ground and was punching the officer’s head as the two struggled over the officer’s gun. This is alleged to have happened during the black segment of the footage.
The officer was treated for a concussion, Smith said, and for burns from the taser.
“I’d been in that backyard,” Smith said. “There is no ambient light in that backyard at all, pitch black. Close your eyes for a second, think about the pitch black. Now picture yourself with your eyes closed, lying on your back, fighting for your life over a handgun with someone on top of you.”
The unidentified man is in stable condition at Strong Memorial Hospital. Smith said officers found a revolver with six spent rounds on the driver’s seat floor of the man’s truck along with another handgun in the driveway of 360 First Street.
On Wednesday, before the footage’s release, City Councilmembers Mary Lupien, Stanley Martin, and Kim Smith — who have all campaigned as part of The People’s Slate, a progressive local political coalition — released a statement criticizing the shooting and calling on RPD and Mayor Malik Evans to turn over all body-worn camera footage to the Police Accountability Board “in hopes of a transparent, community-led investigation.”
“The news of yet another young man shot while fleeing an RPD officer has unfortunately become all too familiar in our city,” the statement reads. “This is not normal — it is unacceptable, and we reject all efforts by the RPD to make our community believe otherwise.”
In response, the Rochester Police Locust Club, which is the union representing RPD officers, issued a statement decrying the councilmembers’ comments and calling on the mayor, Chief Smith, and other councilmembers to denounce them as well.
“Any investigation should be unbiased and based on facts, and all our members understand the need for criticism and critique,” the Locust Club’s statement reads. “The statement by Councilmembers, however, without any evidence or facts, is simply criticism to drive their personal agendas.”
The statement was similarly denounced by the Monroe County Association of Chiefs of Police, who said it “lower[ed] the bar to new levels.” The rest of the city council, excluding Councilmember Jose Peo, also issued a statement Friday expressing disappointment at their colleagues. Peo noted his own opposition on his Facebook page.
“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,” the councilmembers’ statement reads. “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.”
In response to all of the denunciations, Councilmembers Lupien, Martin, and Smith issued a follow-up statement Friday afternoon doubling down on their comments, calling for key community stakeholders to be brought together to find solutions to ending cycles of violence in the community, and asking community members to “remain vigilant” and to challenge “failed systems” that “often do not work for, or with, our communities.”
“For many of us, the first reaction to any shooting in our community is fear, anger and grief,” the statement reads. “The follow-up should always be accountability and seeking to understand why this happened and how we could prevent such a tragedy from happening in the future.”
The investigation into the shooting is ongoing, and Chief Smith says RPD is working with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office to determine appropriate charges against the man who was shot. The PAB confirmed Thursday it was launching its own investigation into the shooting.
More information will be released as RPD’s investigation continues, Smith said.