Created: April 05, 2021 05:55 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There have been 40 civil rights lawsuits against the Rochester Police Department in the last decade, but none of them detail instances of force like the one filed in federal court Monday.
The stories in the lawsuit go back to the shooting death of a young black woman by Rochester Police in 1975 up to the pepper-spraying of a 9-year-old girl by RPD two months ago. And like previous lawsuits, it demands the appointment of someone to come in, oversee the RPD and reform the way it operates.
The lawsuit is 96 pages long. It includes 50 instances where RPD shot, physically handled and or pepper-sprayed people in the city. All but one of the plaintiffs named on the cover of the lawsuit are people alleging they were injured by RPD while they protested the death of Daniel Prude.
One by one, the men and women suing the RPD sat down in front of the camera in a Zoom news conference and explained why they're suing.
Reynaldo DeGuzman is a Nazareth College graduate and a photographer and says he was shot with a pepper ball by police at one of the September protests.
The lawsuit includes a picture of his wound.
Reynaldo DeGuzman, photographer, plaintiff: "The pepper ball split my neck open and the chemical seeped into the wound. I wasn't able to turn my head left for the rest of the week."
Page three of the lawsuit says "The City, in keeping with its long history, responded with the use of extreme violence and militarized police tactics—including deploying batons, tear gas, flash-bang grenades, armored vehicles, and police dogs—to intimidate the protesters."
Brean: "There are dozens of civil rights lawsuits against the RPD. What distinguishes this one from all the others?
Elliot Shields, attorney: This lawsuit is different because it lays out the history going back decades, more detail than any other lawsuit that's ever been filed against the Rochester Police Department."
The stories in the lawsuit include names like:
Dynasty Buggs is a plaintiff and says she was pepper-sprayed by some of the same officers who were involved at the scene with the 9-year-old.
Dynasty Buggs, plaintiff: "Every time I watch those videos it brings me back to a place that I don't want to be."
One of the plaintiffs in Monday's lawsuit also sued RPD in January 2021. And there is body camera video at the core of his lawsuit.
It was May 2018. Three friends were leaving a birthday party on Monroe Avenue. When one of them, Craig Pruitt, was arrested by police after trying to break up a fight near the street, Pruitt's friend Anthony Hall took out his phone and started to record it.
The RPD body camera video shows two minutes later the same officer came after Hall.
RPD: "Put your hands behind your back."
Hall: "I don't have to put my hands behind my back."
Seconds later, the video shows Hall is hit with the officer's baton.
RPD: "He's going."
Hall: "I'm recording and he's beating me like that?"
Hall, Pruitt and one other man are suing the RPD over the incident. The case is still pending.
"Good afternoon, my name is Anthony Hall," Hall said at a Zoom news conference Monday.
Hall and nine other people are suing over being injured during the Daniel Prude protests in September. A photo from Hall's injury getting hit with a pepper ball is in the lawsuit.
"We've gathered more stories than any other lawsuit has gathered," attorney Elliot Shields said at the news conference. "The history of systemic racism and use of excessive force against people of color in the City of Rochester is undeniable."
Hall: "Our hopes for this class action lawsuit is that RPD will not and cannot have the ability to make another Daniel Prude."
The lawsuit names everyone—from the mayor to the county executive down to the officers, deputies and state troopers on the street.
The mayor's office released a statement:
"Mayor Warren welcomes a review by the United States Department of Justice. In fact, in September of last year, Mayor Warren formally called upon them to conduct a thorough investigation of the Rochester Police Department and to offer reforms to address any and all civil rights violations that might be found.
Everyone wants a Rochester that encompasses safer more vibrant neighborhoods, more jobs and greater educational opportunities; and promoting a police department that works with its citizens leads to that goal.
In addition, the City's recently adopted Executive Order 203 response to reform and reinvent policing in Rochester includes meaningful reforms including: the ability for the Mayor to fire officers for cause, revising the federal consent order that effectively caps the number of minority officers at 25%, requiring newly hired officers to live in the city and numerous other changes to limit the use of force by officers. Mayor Warren is dedicated to implementing these reforms building upon her record of ensuring that all officers wear and use body-worn cameras, eliminating red light cameras and creating Rochester's Person In Crisis teams.
Also, under Chief Herriott-Sullivan, at Mayor Warren's direction, RPD has adopted a revised protest response plan to ensure a proportional and just response to community actions."
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