Police officers Michael Sippel and Spenser McAvoy [in photo] have been suspended after allegations they wrongfully arrested and beat Rochester man Christopher Pate back in May. Both officers are white.
The media and police are calling it a case of mistaken identity but we know what it is. All charges were dropped.
Rochester's police chief said the arrest a "failure," and Mayor Lovely Warren called the body camera footage of the incident "egregious" and asked the D.A.'s Office to pursue criminal charges.
Now, the case will be presented to a grand jury to determine whether there's enough evidence to bring the case to trial. In New York, the state constitution’s bill of rights requires that people who are charged with felonies be indicted by a Grand Jury in order for a criminal case to go forward. The Grand Jury is therefore the only authority that can decide whether or not a prosecution should go forward in a felony prosecution.
Christopher Pate, 37, said he was approached by officers in an unmarked vehicle at Fulton Avenue and Bloss Street around 4:45 p.m. on May 5. Officers claimed that Pate matched the description of an individual on their "most wanted" board.
Pate said that after he provided his identification and proved he wasn't the person they were seeking, the officers continued to escalate the situation and initiated a physical confrontation.
According to Pate, the officers tased and handcuffed him then punched him repeatedly, breaking bones in his face.
“I saw the officer on top of him, beating him," said Tina Davis, who saw the incident happening right outside her front door on Fulton Avenue, near Bloss Street. "The guy was yelling and asking him why are they beating him, because he wasn’t resisting or anything, because he wasn’t. From that point on, they took him down to the ground and was on top of him and being real aggressive.” [MORE]
According to a police report Pate showed identification hat revealed Pate was not the wanted man - but the stop continued. Here, if the initial stop was legal then at the moment cops continued the stop it became unlawful within the meaning of the 4th Amendment, as it pertains to some white folks. He was then beaten, falsely arrested and falsely charged with disorderly conduct and jaywalking. All charges were dropped.
Pate appeared at a news conference earlier this month with the Rev. Lewis Stewart, an outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform in Rochester.
"There is a war being perpetrated on black men both locally and nationally by law enforcement," Stewart said. "The only way this kind of behavior will be stopped is if we make an example of these cops. We need to let them know that the public condemns violent racist behavior perpetrated by those who are supposed to protect and serve."
Stewart said that the case is part of a broader problem within the police department.
"There is a history of black men who are given bogus charges after being physically assaulted by the police." Stewart said. "No person, whether a suspect or a perpetrator, should be subjected to a beating."
Stewart said that Pate filed a complaint with the Center for Dispute Settlement. Earlier this month, a notice of claim was filed, a precursor to a potential lawsuit.