Man arrested on gun charge related to double homicide shooting released without bail

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A day after the Rochester Police Department arrested a man named Dennis Speed who RPD says shot and killed a man, Speed was released by a city court judge without bail.

RPD charged Speed with criminal possession of a weapon.

The shooting outside a bar in mid-July left two men dead.

The situation is complicated because police say Speed shot and killed the man who shot and killed the first victim. Police arrested Speed while the grand jury hears evidence on the homicide.

The expectation of police was that Speed would be held. But we found out that’s not what happened in city court.

Police say Dennis Speed has felony convictions in New York and Georgia and so he’s never allowed to have a gun. They believe it was the right thing to do to arrest him for the gun.

They didn’t think he would get out.

The shootings happened in mid-July outside a bar on North Street just outside the Inner Loop.

Here’s how police say it went down. They say a man named Ervin Wiggins was in the middle of the street. He shot at a man named Porter Mizell who was standing in an open lot. Mizell was hit by bullets and killed. And it was after that shooting that police say Dennis Speed took out his gun and shot and killed Wiggins in the middle of the street.

“So he pulled out that illegally possessed handgun and fired shots that ultimately killed an individual out here on North Street,” Lt. Greg Bello said.

Brean: “Do you believe Dennis Speed, who was arrested here, ought to be in jail or at least have some bail set?”
Lt. Greg Bello, RPD: “So in terms of the judicial or legislative branch, that’s not our role. But we made the decision to arrest him for the gun charge because he is such a violent offender, we made that decision to get that gun charge to get him locked up to keep our streets safe. But unfortunately …”
Brean: “… With the understanding or expectation that he would be held in custody.”
Bello: “That would be our hope.”

The Rochester City Court judge who arraigned Speed was Michael Lopez.

I called and emailed his chambers.

The state court system responded for him, writing: “Judge Lopez made his decision to release the defendant on his own recognizance both based on the facts and circumstances of the case and actions of the defendant as presented to him at arraignment and the fact that bail decisions in New York State are solely based, by statute, that they reasonably assure the defendant’s return to court.”

The District Attorney’s office asked for $35,000 in bail.

This year, the state removed the words “least restrictive means” from bail reform, making it easier for judges to set bail.

In separate statements, Assemblyman Harry Bronson said, “judges have the option to set bail in almost any case involving a violent felony … Judges still retain wide discretion to set bail for people who are charged with a violent felony, persistently skip court dates, violate a protective order, are rearrested on a second felony, are charged twice (or more) with any alleged offense involving harm to a person or property, or are on parole or probation charged with felonies.”

Senator Jeremy Cooney wrote, “As a state policymaker, I listened and supported changes to the criminal code that removed the ‘least restrictive means’ standard, giving judges more freedom to determine the proper course of action to keep our communities safe … After making these policy changes, judges may consider a defendant’s criminal history, whether or not their alleged actions caused serious damage or injury to others … it appears (Speed) was eligible to be held on bail but the judge did not choose to hold him.”

Brean: “So if you believe he fired the gun that killed someone, why not charge him with murder? He’d be locked up right now.”
Bello, RPD: “So ultimately every time we file charges especially on violent incidents such as this, it’s in consultation with the district attorney’s office. And potentially murder charges are coming. That’s going to be the decision of the grand jury.”

Bail is not punishment. It’s a tool to get people to come back to court.

The police, DA’s office and grand jury are trying to determine if the shooting Speed is accused of was justified.

The criminal complaint filed by RPD with the court Saturday says Speed had a gun, it was loaded and he “did use it to shoot another male.”

Dennis Speed is scheduled to be back in front of Judge Lopez on Thursday.