Audio released of man who died in Schenectady police custody

Andrew Kearse died after complaining to officer
Angelique Kearse speaks in the lobby of the Schenectady police headquarters.
Angelique Kearse speaks in the lobby of the Schenectady police headquarters.

SCHENECTADY — Andrew Kearse, the man who died in Schenectady police custody, repeatedly told officers after his arrest that he was having trouble breathing, but officers failed to respond, according to a nine-minute audio clip released by Kearse’s widow.

Kearse, who had been arrested by officers after a short foot chase, also reported being nauseated and other signs that he might be having a heart attack, according to the audio and his widow Angelique Negroni-Kearse.

“I can’t breathe,” Kearse says early in the audio clip and again later. At another point, Kearse reported he might throw up. Another voice, believed to be the officer driving him, responded by telling him not to throw up in his car.

“If they would have called an ambulance right away, I believe Andrew would have been alive,” Negroni-Kearse said Friday.

Negroni-Kearse said she secretly recorded the audio last month during a meeting with the state Attorney General’s Office, which is investigating the death.

Representatives showed her available audio and video of the events surrounding her husband’s death. She recorded the audio through her cellphone, which she placed on the table as she viewed the recordings, she said.

City officer microphones captured audio of most or all of the incident, while cameras in the patrol car and at the station captured Kearse being transported and events after the patrol car’s arrival at the station, officials have said.

[Foss: Why did man die in police custody?]

Negroni-Kearse said she also has audio from the chase, the rest of the transport and the station, but declined to release it Friday on the advice of her attorney.

She believes officers failed to respond to her husband’s cries for help, which led to his death. She wants the officers involved prosecuted.

A representative of the state Attorney General’s Office declined to address the authenticity of the nine-minute clip, but reiterated their investigation is ongoing.


Pictured: Andrew Kearse and his wife, Angelique Negroni-Kearse. (Photo provided)

Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford, in a statement released in response to the clip, called it partial and selective and the release unfortunate.

“There are many facts about the case that have not been disclosed,” Clifford said. He declined to comment further until the attorney general’s investigation is complete, but repeated that his department continues to cooperate with the investigation.

Kearse, 36, of the Bronx, died early on the evening of May 11 after he led officers on a brief foot chase after a traffic stop on Ward Avenue.

He complained of breathing problems and feeling dizzy as he was being driven to police headquarters, and he was unresponsive when officers arrived at the station, police have said. City police said they immediately called paramedics.

Negroni-Kearse has filed a claim — the precursor to a lawsuit — against the city, seeking $25 million in damages. A lawsuit has not yet been filed.

The nine minutes of audio released is largely from just after Kearse was placed in the patrol car awaiting transport. A portion at the end is the beginning of the transport, Negoni-Kearse said.

Kearse can be heard on the clip repeatedly addressing officers.

“Excuse me, sir. Excuse me, sir,” he says early in the clip. “I can’t breathe.”

He appeared to say he couldn’t breathe three times over the length of the clip. Heavy or labored breathing is heard throughout.

Negroni-Kearse identified that sound as her husband.

Kearse addresses officers as “sir” at least eight times over the clip. He says “officer” 18 times and “please” 15 times.

Officers don’t appear to address Kearse’s concerns on the clip.

“Are you hot?” an apparent officer responds at one point. “Then you probably shouldn’t have run.”

At another point later in the clip, an apparent officer asks, “You think this might have to do with you running from police?”

Kearse asks if the officer can open a window. The officer declines.

The clip released ends as Kearse tells the officer “I feel like I might throw up.”

“Don’t throw up in my car,” the apparent officer responds.

Negroni-Kearse said later audio and video shows Kearse passed out about a minute away from arriving at the police station. She believes he died then. No paramedics are summoned, she said, until after the patrol car arrived at the station.

“He indicated each and every step that he was in cardiac arrest — and nothing,”  Negroni-Kearse said.

Hawk Newsome, an activist with Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, on Friday said he believes the Attorney General’s Office should move forward with a grand jury and prosecution.

“The bottom line is this man called out for help for 20 minutes and no help was given to him,” Newsome said. “He was actually tortured, in a way.”

Negroni-Kearse released the audio earlier this week to Buzzfeed, a website. She said she held it because she was initially told the investigation would be another month, then two months. After giving investigators time, she decided to release the portion.

“I just really want justice for Andrew,” she said.

[March held for man who died in Schenectady police custody]

A statement was issued this week by an Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman: “Our investigation into Mr. Kearse’s death is ongoing and has involved a series of investigative steps including extensive medical testing and analysis (including by an independent cardiologist), interviews with multiple witnesses, and audio and video enhancement. As in all cases investigated by our Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit, we are committed to conducting an independent, comprehensive, and fair investigation to provide Mr. Kearse’s family and the community with the answers they deserve.”

Andrew Safranko, an attorney representing the officers involved, could not be reached for comment Friday. He has previously said they fully expect the investigation to lead to the officers’ exoneration.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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