Saratoga County

Saratoga pepper-spray victim to get $50K

Adam Rupeka, the Troy man pepper-sprayed in May by a Saratoga Springs police officer who later resig
Adam Rupeka, right, walks to his arraignment in Saratoga City Court (City Hall) with his attorney James C. Knox, of the E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy Law Firm, on Thursday, May 21, 2015. Rupeka was driving home Saturday afternoon when he passed office...
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Adam Rupeka, right, walks to his arraignment in Saratoga City Court (City Hall) with his attorney James C. Knox, of the E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy Law Firm, on Thursday, May 21, 2015. Rupeka was driving home Saturday afternoon when he passed office...

Adam Rupeka, the Troy man pepper-sprayed in May by a Saratoga Springs police officer who later resigned, will be receiving $50,000 under a legal settlement with the city announced last week.

The settlement revealed on Aug. 13 was intended to remain confidential, but the amount of money was released after Freedom of Information Law requests to the city from The Daily Gazette and other news organizations.

The money is coming from an insurance company, with no direct payment by the city, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said last week. Even though the settlement amount is now public, Mathiesen said Friday he had been advised not to comment.

Rupeka, 35, was pepper-sprayed by Officer Nathan Baker about 30 seconds into a traffic stop on May 16 on High Rock Avenue. Rupeka was pulled over after he raised his middle finger to the officer while driving past Baker’s car near the police station, an act he said was constitutionally protected free speech. Rupeka was pepper-sprayed after he argued with the officer.

Rupeka recorded the encounter with a dashboard camera and posted it on the Internet, leading to an outcry and the suspension of Baker, who had been with the Police Department 21⁄2 years. Baker resigned in June after Police Chief Greg Veitch launched a disciplinary investigation that was expected to lead to Baker’s termination.

Rupeka filed a notice of claim against the city, a precursor to legal action.

When the settlement to end the threat of a lawsuit was announced, the city also released a previously undisclosed booking room surveillance video in which Baker shouts at Rupica and threatens the handcuffed man with a Taser, after Rupeka refuses repeated demands from Baker to sit down. Other officers were present for some of the interactions, but did not interfere.

When Rupeka was pulled over by Baker, he refused to get out of his car while objecting to being arrested, which is when Baker pepper-sprayed him, then made an arrest.

Last week, Veitch condemned the officer’s actions, both in making the arrest and in the booking room.

“No policy or procedure or training of the Police Department includes the use of pepper spray without warning on nonviolent resisting subjects, or the use of physical force, verbal threats or the pointing of a Taser at handcuffed nonviolent individuals who are in our custody,” Veitch said.

Rupeka was initially charged with resisting arrest, but the charge was dropped at the request of the District Attorney’s Office. Rupeka operates a website called CopBlock, and he said he came to Saratoga Springs to give an officer the finger as an act of free speech after hearing complaints of abuse of power by the department.

Rupeka could not be reached for comment.

Veitch said Saratoga Springs police already receive training in de-escalating situations, but there may be additional training or adjustments to existing training. Asked whether any other officers in the booking room video were disciplined, Veitch said that was handled internally and he wouldn’t discuss it.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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